Fantasy Baseball: Zack Godley Is for Real

Godley had an impressive breakout season in 2017, but he's still undervalued in fantasy baseball.

The Arizona Diamondbacks were one of baseball's surprise teams last season. After finishing 69-93 in 2016, they flipped their record, going 93-69 and making the playoffs before getting swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in Divisional Round.

It was an impressive turnaround for the D-Backs, and as is usually the case when a team has a breakout year, some of Arizona's players put together surprisingly great seasons. Starting pitcher Zack Godley was one of them. He excelled across 25 starts (plus one relief appearance), and he is a strong bet to repeat that performance in 2018.

What He Did Last Season

Godley was a rather forgettable reliever in 2016. He had a poor ERA (6.39) in his first full season in the bigs, and he paired that with a 4.97 FIP. He had a measly 17.9% strikeout rate with a decent 7.5% walk rate. The one shining light, however, was his superb ground ball rate (53.8%), something that helps massively when your home park in Chase Field.

Overall, Godley struggled to do much of anything in 2016. Middling starters sometimes become good relievers, but it rarely happens the other way around. So when Godley burst onto the scene as a very good starter in 2017, it was a shocker.

He threw 155 innings and had an uninspiring win-loss record (8-9), but the rest of his profile was excellent. He posted a 3.37 ERA with a 3.41 FIP to back it up. He brought up his strikeout rate to 26.3%, while keeping his walk rate in relatively the same range as he did in 2016 (8.5%).

Godley's jump in strikeout rate fueled his surge, and there doesn't appear to be anything flukey about his whiffs as his career-high 13.3% swinging-strike rate checked in ninth among starters with at least 150 innings pitched.

He also did a great job limiting contact, and when contact was made, it usually resulted in a ground-ball. Godley finished the season with a 69.9% contact rate, the lowest of his career and well below the league average of 77.5%. His ground-ball rate of 55.3% ranked fourth among qualified pitchers.

Godley generates those grounders via a nasty, late-moving heater.

A pitcher who gets a ton of whiffs and keeps the ball on the ground is going to give himself a great chance to have success.

What About 2018?

A lot of this bodes well for Godley's 2018 campaign.

When any player has a breakout year, it's wise to tread lightly and try to find reasons for regression. With Godley, everything checks out. Not only that, but things could actually get better.

Arizona has decided to use a humidor in 2018, and a humidor has shown the ability to suppress offense in the past. The entirety of the pitching staff will likely get a boost because of the humidor, and while it may not impact a ground-ball pitcher like Godley as much as it will the rest of the staff, it surely won't hurt him.

Per Baseball Monster, Godley finished last season as fantasy's 23rd-best starting pitcher in category-based leagues. Using the average draft position info from National Fantasy Baseball Championship, Godley is, on average, the 32nd starting pitcher off the board.

If your league hasn't had its draft, Godley is a superb value at that price, and if your draft is finished, Godley is the rare breakout player from the previous year who may still be a good buy-low option.