There’s a fair chance that a bunch of you readers out there are sitting upon a dragon’s horde-sized pile of gold right now after the GameStop madness of the last week. So, in the spirit of taking something that people don’t consider valuable and hyping it to the moon, I’m bringing you my latest Deal or No Deal article on yet ANOTHER Seattle Mariners pitcher. Wait! Don’t unfollow us! Remember the good times when Randy Johnson and F-Her were your Mariners stars? Take that level of excitement and then tamp it down to “medium reggae” while you get ready to draft your star pitcher at pick 150: Marco Gonzales.
Marco Gonzales: Deal or No Deal?
Gonzales has been the de facto number 1 starter on the Mariners for the past three years, and you probably didn’t notice or care. I mean, the Mariners have been in a constant rebuild since King Felix fell off the rails. You know what the 2017 Mariners roster was? Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Jean Segura, Jarrod Dyson, James Paxton, Edwin Diaz, Kyle Seager…I mean, the potential was GameStop. Exactly. Three years later and Mariners fans are staring at a depleted store front staffed by workers who are just there because a hedge fund owner needs to funnel money from foreign donors through something brick and mortar. Even as the Mariners consistently finished with middling records and traded off their veterans and free agents, one pitcher quietly put up solid fantasy years for three years straight: Marco Gonzales.
Over the last three seasons, guess who is 4th in wins, is in the top 15 in Innings Pitched, is top 15 in lowest HR/9, has the 5th lowest HR/FB%, and has a top 30 cumulative FIP? Because if you’re not guessing Marco Gonzales, you probably need to read the lede again. Gonzales has been so reliable as a pitcher that he’s thrown the 40th most Ks of any starting pitcher over the past three years despite having a K/9 below 8.0. Grey’s gonna tell you to look for about 150 Ks per starting pitcher, and guess what Gonzales’ totals were the past three years? 145, 147, and a pro-rated 174 in a full-season of 2020. Sure, he doesn’t miss a ton of bats, but batters also don’t make hard contact when they connect: Gonzales has the 14th lowest barrel rate over the last three years (cumulatively ranked), sandwiching him between Kenta Maeda and Mike Clevinger. It’s nice to be the Marco-meat in-between the Mike and Maeda bread! And, of course, Gonzales’ command is elite. He’s got the 10th lowest BB/9 in MLB over the last three years.
With these numbers, it’s no surprise that Gonzales finished as the 9th best starting pitcher according to the Razzball Player Rater in 2020. He was SP40 in 2019. He was SP41 in 2018. In context, that’s your 3rd or 4th starter in a 12-team league. Looking at the early takeaways from NFBC mock drafts, 3rd starters are almost universally going by the 5th round of your draft. Except…you shouldn’t be drafting pitchers that early because Marco Gonzales will be available much later. Gonzales doesn’t have stuff so wild that it makes the Pitching Ninja highlight reel. He’s just as thoroughly unsexy as looking at a spreadsheet of pitch values. He’s being drafted 150th overall on NFBC right now, and going as the 50th-60th SP off the board.
You know who Marco Gonzales has crushed in the Player Rater every year? Tyler Glasnow. And Lance McCullers Jr., but you probably knew that already. But really, Tyler Glasnow has performed worse than Marco Gonzales every year since 2018. You know where Tyler Glasnow is being drafted? 50th overall on average, and one time as high as 30th overall. Marco Gonzales has bested Glasnow three years in a row and is available nearly 10 rounds later. I’m not one to tell you to avoid the luxurious locks of Glasnow right now, but why would you pay full price for Glasnow when Gonzales will give you superior results at a massive discount?
Everything I wrote in my Yusei Kikuchi 2021 Fantasy Outlook applies here as well: the Mariners are going to be a wonky team. They’ve been wonky for years, and now they’ve got some super prospects that are going to come up and mess around with the lineup in 2021. There will be learning curves, and there will be times where the Mariners are playing simply to give their future stars playing time rather than wins. But those are all external factors, which add volatility to Gonzales’ ceiling as a fantasy pitcher. Nonetheless, Gonzales’ teammate Yusei Kikuchi suffered greatly for fantasy values because of the Mariners’ defense, and he finished 2020 with one of the greatest disparities between ERA and xERA seen in MLB.
With fantasy managers actually drafting Marco Gonzales later than ever right now, he becomes a great fantasy asset for your team. He’s not a sexy pick (don’t Google ‘Marco Gonzales sexy pic’ btw), but he’s consistently shown to be a pitcher that exceeds his predicted fantasy value. As you’re taking hitters earlier, target Gonzales as your third or fourth starter once you approach round ten of 12-team drafts.
What do you think about Marco Gonzales in 2021? Leave a comment below and let me know!