(Photo by Carlos Herrera/Icon Sportswire)
Zack Godley arrived from the depths of nowhere last season to become one of the breakout fantasy pitchers of 2017. He finished 2017 with a 3.37 ERA/1.14 WHIP/9.58 K/9 while throwing 75.2 of his 155 IP at the extreme hitter’s park, Chase Field. He wrapped up the season as the 29th best starting pitcher according to ESPN’s player rater. He is currently being drafted as the 126th player off the board and the 33rd SP (according to NFBC ADP). I consider this is a draft day steal, and at this price, I will target him as often as possible.
First, to truly understand Zack Godley, let’s back up to his minor-league career. He was drafted 233rd overall by the Cubs in the 2013 Amateur draft. He was never a thought of as an elite prospect and never cracked the Diamondbacks organizational top-10. In his 3 seasons in the Diamondbacks minor league system he put together an efficient 2.96 ERA, and 9 K/9 in 291.2 IP. He showed an ability to suppress home-runs giving up 0.5 HR/9. This was an encouraging sign for any D-Backs pitcher due to Chase Field’s extreme Park Factors (3rd in Runs, 5th in HR). Godley picked up his first taste of the Majors in 2015 while pitching out of a more relief role in 2016. In his first 111.1 innings between 2015-2016 he started just 15 games of his 36 appearances producing a 5.34 ERA (4.76 FIP/4.17 xFIP) with a 5.34 K/9 (Well below his minor league numbers) and a 1.37 HR/9 (Well above his minor league track record)
Now let’s take a look at Godley’s repertoire, according to Brooks Baseball Godley ”relied primarily on his Curve (83mph), Sinker (92mph) and Cutter (90mph), also mixing in a Change (84mph).”
Here is a brief look at some of his pitches in motion to truly appreciate what Zack Godley offers via our wonderful Pitcher List player database.
First, his sinker thrown 42.71% of the time:
His curveball that he features at a 35.75% rate:
His cutter with a 13.35% usage rate:
And his changeup which he mixed in 7.29% of the time:
So what flipped the switch and made Zack Godley successful in 2017? First, he saw a tick in velocity on his sinker. It jumped from 90.8 MPH in 2016 up to 91.9 MPH. With his rise in velocity, Godley also threw his Curveball significantly more. He threw it a career-high 35.75% of the time, and his Cutter a career-low 13.35%. He mixed in changeup only 7.5% of the time.
What makes Godley truly unique is the ability to sustain a high ground-ball rate at 55.3% (9th highest among SP with at least 100 innings) and an elite K/9 (27th). Among pitchers with a 55% or more ground ball rate, only Lance McCullers and Godley maintained an 8+ K/9. Godley uses his Sinker to induce the ground-balls (64% GB-rate) and does it well. His 4.82 GB/FB ratio against his sinker was the 22nd highest among pitchers with a minimum 500 pitches thrown. He produced an impressive DB% of 47 (DB% are any BIP with a vertical launch angle below 0 degrees, Dribble balls had an AVG of .187 in 2017). His Swing strike percentage with his sinker was a mere 3.9%, but the purpose of the pitch was to induce weak contact and ground balls.
Where Godley truly shines as a strikeout pitcher is with his off-speed pitches. His curveball had a pVAL 20.7 (2nd highest, Min 100 IP) and Whiff/Swing% of 45.6, making it the 6th highest among players pitchers with 200 pitches thrown. Batters managed just a measly .158 BAA and 0.88 ISO versus the pitch Godley’s changeup while used sparingly in 2017 (190 Thrown), but it was effective producing a top-10 Whiff/Swing at 40.91% and an ISO against of .063.
There are question marks regarding Godley’s command. While his walk rate of 8.5% wasn’t top-notch, it also wasn’t Tyler Glasnow level bad. He focuses on nibbling around the zone, and enticing hitters to chase. His zone-percentage of 40.3%, was 4.7% below league average but he got batters to chase frequently. Hitters produced an O-Swing% of 33.1 (3.2% Above-Average) and when they swung they only managed a measly 46.6% O-Contact rate. His 46.6% O-Contact% was the 4th lowest among pitchers with 100 innings ahead of the likes of Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw, and Max Scherzer (Not bad company) and well below the MLB average of 62.9%. A lot of his low O-Contact rate can be contributed to the curveball (37.2%) and cutter (47.2%) which were both hard to make contact with respectively. Don’t let the high ground-ball rate fool you, Godley can miss bats with the best of them and I expect his high K/9 to continue into the 2018 season.
In 2017 Godley was home-run prone with a 14.7% HR/FB rate but he may have gotten a tad unlucky with those home run numbers. According to xStats he should have allowed 13.8 xHR rather than the 15 he did allow. With 9 of those HR coming at home, and the humidor being installed in Chase Field we could see a reduction of the right-hander’s HR proneness. He had previously shown a track record in the minors of sustaining a low HR/9 (0.5), and but has yet to show it in his MLB stints. With the installation of the humidor, the minor league track record, and the excellence of his sinker I expect Godley’s Home run to fly ball rate to regress heading into next season.
Blind Resume Test: Which SP would you rather have in 2018?
Player A- 3.37 ERA (3.41FIP/3.32xFIP) 9.58 K/9, 1.14 WHIP, 14 QS, 155 IP, 126.15 ADP
Player B- 2.90 ERA (3.79FIP/ 3.32 xFIP) 7.72 K/9, 1.12 WHIP, 16 QS, 145.2 IP, 78.58 ADP#FantasyBaseball
— ap (@roto_perodeau) March 2, 2018
I’m not trying to say Zack Godley is better than Dallas Keuchel. I’m just trying to illuminate that Godley is being incredibly under-valued heading into the season. Keuchel put up very similar numbers last season but has produced just one season with a K/9 above 9 (Godley did it in his first full-season). So please do me a favor, do yourself a favor, when you see Keuchel sitting there in the mid-7th round, think long and hard. Do you want to take Keuchel or wait an add break-out superstar Zack Godley?