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Arizona Diamondbacks 25-Man Roster: Season Hinges On Zack Greinke’s Ability To Lead Rotation

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MIAMI, FL - JUNE 28: Zack Greinke #21 of the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the second inning during the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on June 28, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JUNE 28: Zack Greinke #21 of the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the second inning during the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on June 28, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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Arizona Diamondbacks
SAN DIEGO, CA – AUGUST 18: Zack Godley #52 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on August 18, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /
Zack Godley

– 5th Season

In the grand scheme of things, Godley hasn’t been a starting pitcher for all that long. The Cubs drafted him as a 10th round pick and brought him along as a reliever for his first two professional seasons. He racked up 15 saves and 12.5 K/9 in A and High-A before the Diamondbacks acquired him (with Jeferson Mejia) for Miguel Montero.

Mejia stagnated in Low-A, but Godley took off when the Diamondbacks turned him into a starter. He continued to shuttle back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen until 2017 when he earned his keep in 25 starts with a 3.37 ERA.

He took 32 turns last season, and while many of his peripheral metrics look similar, the year-over-year rWAR numbers are not good. 8-9 with a 3.37 ERA was good for an All-Star caliber 4.4 rWAR in 2017. Last season, a 15-11 record with a 4.74 ERA resulted in -0.8 rWAR.

The almost run and a half difference in his ERA certainly accounts for a lot of the difference, but there was less variance in his year-over-year FIP numbers, 3.41 to 3.82.  Fangraphs, meanwhile, credits Godley’s 2018 with 2.8 fWAR.

Fact is, Godley didn’t command the strike zone in 2018 as well as he did in 2017 – that’s the name of the game. He walked one more batter per nine innings while leading the league in wild pitches (17) and hit batters (12). He’ still missing bats, and hitters’ BABIP jumped to .324 after landing at .280 the year before (on a scale where .300 BABIP is roughly average).

Frankly, this doesn’t have to be complicated: Godley gave up more runs than any other pitcher in the National League last season. That’s a good sign, in some ways, because it means he pitched well enough to have opportunity.

Godley should be better in 2019 than he was in 2018. There’s nothing in his profile to suggest there’s much room for growth (he turns 29 in April), but if he can settle in as an innings eater with an ERA somewhere around 4.00, that adds value as long as he’s cheap. He’ll be arbitration eligible for the first time next season, meaning his on-field production ought to exceed his cost for at least three more seasons, by which point he will be 32.

Any further regression, however, and Godley becomes a liability. Personally, I don’t see much of a ceiling, and I’d shop him. Because he’s so cheap, however, trading him is only as worthwhile as the return.

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