Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 2/25/13
Gio Gonzalez possesses one of the most important one-two statistical duos for a starting pitcher: high strikeout rates with high ground ball rates.Over the last two seasons, when Gonzalez has really come into his own, he’s racked up an impressive 9.06 K/9 (6th-best in MLB of the 77 pitchers with at least 300 innings over the span) with a 47.8% ground ball rate (28th). Only Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw, and Zack Greinke have also struck out at least a batter per inning with a ground ball rate over 45%. Lee and Kershaw are two of the five or six best pitchers in baseball. Greinke has ace-like stuff but his low strand rates make me question his mental make-up.Gonzalez is a 200-inning starter who has lowered his walk rate every single season he’s been in the majors, though he it’s still a little on the higher-than-I’d-like side, which causes him to fall short of the 210-230 inning totals we see from most aces. Thankfully with Washington’s signing of Rafael Soriano, the Nationals have one of the best seventh-eighth-ninth trios in baseball (Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Soriano), so leaving games with the lead after six innings might as well be chalked up as a win.At a GlanceStrengths: W, K, K/9, ERA, QSNeutral: L, WHIP, BBWeaknesses: PED scandalPlayer ComparisonsBest-case scenario: Clayton Kershaw (LAD) with a higher BB rate/WHIPLikely scenario: Chris Sale (CHW), Yu Darvish (TEX), Max Scherzer (DET)Worst-case scenario: Yovani Gallardo (MIL)Gio Gonzalez 2013 Fantasy ProjectionWhat will be fascinating to see is if Gonzalez can replicate that sparkling .201 opponents’ average. It took a .267 BABIP to do it, a mark that looks a little unsustainable given Gonzalez’s 21.9% line drive rate last year, but his stuff is still electric enough — and his strikeout rate is still high enough — that a very low OBA is almost certain. Assuming no regression in walk rate, another solid or above average WHIP should be expected.Now, what about Gonzalez’s recent link to PEDs? Well, good luck quantifying that. Will he get suspended and miss one-third of the season? I seriously doubt it, but even if he does play all season I don’t think I really want to reach on him at his current ADP of 54.1.Paying for career years is never smart, and as talented as Gonzalez is, his WHIP can’t be elite with a walk rate as high as his and he still falls well short of the innings totals of some of the other tier one or two two pitchers. In K/9 leagues he’s certainly someone to target, but in all other formats I’d rather have Adam Wainwright or Madison Bumgarner, both of whom are getting drafted right around Gonzalez.That said, if I had to choose between taking Gonzalez as my first pitcher in the fifth/sixth round or drafting someone like Paul Goldschmidt, B.J. Upton, or Allen Craig and then drafting Mat Latos or Johnny Cueto as my first pitcher in the sixth/seventh round, I’d probably elect to take Gonzalez.
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