Rookie pitchers in fantasy baseball are always and interesting target in fantasy baseball drafts. The top pitching prospects have the talent to be front end starters that can have “league winning” upside given their ADP's. With MLB Spring Training going on and MLB Opening Day just a few weeks away this means your fantasy draft is rapidly approaching and you are left with the age-old question “who do I draft and in what round do I draft him?” Hopefully you have begun to create your fantasy baseball player rankings and checked out the free fantasy baseball draft guide. Maybe you've done a few fantasy baseball mock drafts as well to help get a feel for the draft room experience. Either way, studying fantasy baseball ADP is a must and you should also be looking at our fantasy baseball cheat sheet, because that will help guide you as well in your decision making process.

One player that is having himself a strong spring is starting pitcher Nick Lodolo of the Cincinnati Reds. Lodolo has been an interesting player to analyze this draft season with his fantasy baseball ADP moving up over the past month. Today, Colby Conway and Matt Selz take on one side of the argument as to why you should or should not draft Lodolo at his current price. 



Why You Should Draft Nick Lodolo

by Colby Conway

Despite a 4-7 record in 2022 pitching for the Reds, Lodolo had a very impressive rookie campaign. He posted a 29.7 percent strikeout rate, 46 percent ground ball rate, and perhaps most impressive, he managed to post a 2.85 ERA at his home park. While I doubt he posts a sub-3.00 ERA at Great American Ball Park again, I’m confident his 5.11 road ERA from last year is much, much lower in 2023. Lodolo is being drafted as an SP3 this season, and I’m here to tell you why Lodolo is worth the price, and then some.

Lodolo was in rare company last season. There were only three pitchers that logged at least 100 innings pitched last year with a 29.7 percent strikeout rate and a 46 percent or better ground ball rate.

If we expand the parameters to pitchers with at least a 40 percent ground ball rate, we see the following starters added to the list:

Strikeouts. Ground balls. A pitcher’s best friends. Lodolo tweaked his pitch mix as the year went on, opting to use his curveball more and more as the year progressed. That pitch registered a .136 BAA (.106 xBA) and an insane 46 percent whiff rate. He could use his sinking fastball even more to help generate more ground balls, but his standard four-seamer is key to his repertoire. Lodolo isn’t just another funky left-hander, but his arm slot and pitch movement have the ability to wreak havoc on opposing hitters.

As he continued to refine his pitch mix, the results were clear that Lodolo was going to be an excellent fantasy starter. Over his final 13 starts of the season, following a rough outing against the Cardinals, he posted a 30 percent strikeout rate with a 2.92 ERA. During that same time frame, he was one of just eight starters to post those same numbers, along with the likes of Spencer Strider, Brandon Woodruff, Justin Verlander, and other top-tier fantasy starters.

The haters will point to his 45th percentile average exit velocity, 26th percentile hard hit rate, and 18th percentile barrel rate from last year, and while it would be ideal if he can improve on that, don’t blow it out of proportion. Yes, it would be nice to improve on it, but when you generate a ground ball nearly half of the time on batted balls, some of the concern with elevated exit velocities is mitigated. 

Lodolo was a first round draft pick, progressed through the minors quickly, and showcased the stuff that should have the Reds and fantasy managers alike excited. This could be the last time for quite awhile that we are getting Lodolo as an SP3 in drafts, so take advantage, and profit off what should be an excellent 2023 season that will see Lodolo push for 200 strikeouts if all goes well.


Why You Should Not Draft Nick Lodolo This Year

by Matt Selz

There is a ton of buzz around the Reds’ number two pitcher coming off his rookie year. Does that mean we should buy that buzz? Not necessarily. The second half of the year last year was a good one for him, there’s little denying that. However, not all of the numbers are in his favor heading into 2023.

Let’s start with the workload and innings count. Last year, between CPX, Triple-A, and MLB, Lodolo was on the mound for 116 innings. That follows a 50.2 inning year in 2021 between Double- and Triple-A after no organized minor league ball in 2020. We have to be concerned with just how big a jump the Reds are expecting from Lodolo this year after a 60-plus inning jump a year ago. Typically, and you’ve heard Colby and I reference it on the MLB podcast several times, a team doesn’t like to have a starter jump more than 30-35 innings from season-to-season. That means we could see Lodolo max out around 150 innings if not a bit less if that trend holds.

There has to be more than just innings that is concerning though right? Sure. Let’s dive into the ratios a bit. The first thing we notice is that to get the better ERA in the second half he cut down the strikeout rates. The next thing we notice is he led the league, as in all of MLB, in hit batsmen last year and along with his high walk rate, that signifies some control issues popping up. There are a few other issues with his ratios as well. Firstly, he got absolutely smoked in inter-league starts in 2022 with a 5.40 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, and a .284/.396/.531/.927 quad-slash line. Why is this a problem? He made four starts against inter-league opponents a year ago but in 2023, that number almost assuredly goes up. Cincinnati played 21 such games in 2022 and in 2023 the Reds have 46 games against the AL with the more balanced schedule. The last part of the ratios that are concerning is his 5.11 road ERA. Sure the home ERA was great — sub-3.00 — but with just seven starts on the road a year ago and more likely to happen in 2023, his ERA from a year ago is likely to balloon higher.

If we want to take a look at the Statcast data from a year ago, it’s not great either. Among all pitchers who threw at least 90 innings last year, Lodolo posted the 13th-highest BABIP (.322), 14th-highest HR/FB ratio (15.1-percent), and 20th-highest Barrel Rate (9.1-percent) among 134 total pitchers. Even the catcher situation isn’t in his favor as the only catcher he worked well with last year, Austin Romine, isn’t likely to make the Opening Day roster. The Reds have Tyler Stephenson, Curt Casali, and Luke Maile also on the roster as catchers with Romine being an NRI coming into camp.

Nick Lodolo is facing an uphill battle for value in 2023. His innings aren’t likely to go over 150 by much if at all, he’s likely to face more interleague opponents than last year, and worse yet may not have his catcher behind the dish. All of this for a pitcher going off the board as SP37 in ADP from February 1 thru mid-March. Hard to see him paying off as an SP3 for fantasy baseball and we didn’t even factor in his low Wins upside given the state of the Reds roster.


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