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ADP Cost Analysis - Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Joey Lucchesi


Going into this season as with last, there is little separation between starting pitchers in the middle tiers. Some fantasy analysts have taken to referring to this bunching of talent outside of the elite as "The Glob." One's mileage may vary from the next in terms of which arms are included in this group, but there's broad consensus that it exists.

What's a fantasy owner to do? In the current environment, with starters' workloads decreasing, it's arguably more difficult than ever to decide which hurlers you should draft to fill out your rotation behind whichever and however many horses you've stocked at the top. At a certain point, a thorough analysis may seem to yield diminishing returns as opposed to, say, flipping a coin. But if you did that, I'd be out of a job. So let's see what we can suss out with a close reading of the tea leaves.

Today, we're debating the merits of a pair of 25-year-old southpaws who produced remarkably similar stat lines in 2018: Eduardo Rodriguez of the defending world champion Boston Red Sox, and Joey Lucchesi of the upstart San Diego Padres. Despite their roughly analogous production a year ago, Rodriguez is currently being drafted nearly 50 picks earlier, per NFBC ADP data. Which one should you roster?

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Eduardo Rodriguez - 158 ADP

It may come as something of a surprise given his age, but 2019 will already be Rodriguez's fifth MLB season. He has averaged 22 starts and 124 innings in his first four years with Boston, and has yet to crack 140 innings in a single campaign. By most measures, 2018 was the apex of his brief career; he won 13 games with a 3.82 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 18.3 K-BB%. All of those numbers were career bests.

As one might surmise from his lower than expected innings totals thus far, injuries have been a frequent problem for the Venezuela native. They've primarily been to his bottom half (recurrent knee problems, and an ankle issue last year), rather than his arm. That's cold comfort, however, when frequent trips to the disabled list are the rule rather than the exception. Rodriguez has also had trouble pitching deep into games. For his career, he has lasted more than six innings just 18 times in 88 starts.

The concerns around health and volume have kept E-Rod's ADP in the SP45 range, but some helium is creeping in with his spring training workouts drawing rave reviews from luminaries like Pedro Martinez. Just another "best shape of his life" story? Quite possibly. But it's certainly fun to imagine what a fully healthy Rodriguez could do with 30 starts after four years of steady improvement despite his injuries.

 

Joey Lucchesi (207 ADP)

Despite being two months younger than Rodriguez, 2018 was Lucchesi's first season in the major leagues. While his surface stats were slightly worse than E-Rod's (eight wins, 4.08 ERA, 1.29 WHIP), most of his peripherals were right in line with his fellow lefty. Both pitched 130 innings with virtually identical metrics in strikeouts and walks. The biggest difference in their results came on the third true outcome - Lucchesi allowed seven more home runs than Rodriguez did.

That's not nothing! Even though they've become more common than at most other points in the game's history, home runs are still the worst possible outcome for a pitcher. We can't pretend those seven extra long balls didn't count. Whether they indicate a long-term issue for Lucchesi, however, is up for debate.

He rose quickly through the minors, needing fewer than 200 innings across two seasons to reach the big club. But in those minor league innings, Lucchesi didn't demonstrate any particular proneness to homers. He suppressed them, in fact, aided by his groundball-heavy batted-ball profile. This is also an accurate representation of his college career. Take that into account, and along with a 20.4 HR/FB% that easily led the majors (min. 130 innings), one can argue with some ease that Lucchesi endured at least some measure of misfortune.

On the other hand, Lucchesi's pronounced second-half fade is cause for concern. Did the league start to figure him out? Did he hit the rookie wall? If the former, can he adjust effectively? The Padres, with Manny Machado in the fold, look pretty frisky on the hitting side of things. The rotation is a bit more uncertain, but they'll be counting on Lucchesi taking a step forward.

 

The Decision

This one is tricky. I think in terms of absolute value, Rodriguez is the better bet. He's trended steadily upward since breaking into the majors, he's got a great team behind him, and his ceiling is higher than that of Lucchesi. The health concerns are significant. It's impossible to reach your ceiling if you can't play, after all.

Lucchesi missed time last year with a hip strain, but doesn't have anywhere near the spotty health history of E-Rod. If you believe his late-season struggles were due more to fatigue than the league adjusting to his deceptive delivery, that 50-pick gap looks like a huge point in Lucchesi's favor.

On draft day, I'll be more interested in Rodriguez, even at a higher price.

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