Last year's wide awake sleeper is this year's dollar darling

Last year

Around this time every year, I go searching for my next dollar darling, that player I think will do what Lucas Giolito did last year, go from the worst pitcher in Major League Baseball one year to a Cy Young Award contender the next. Sometimes these things just fall into your lap.

I started this year’s search like I always do, scouring the free agent pools of my Ottoneu leagues for low owned starters. One name immediately caught my eye: Nick Pivetta.

In 2018, Giolito pitched to the worst ERA (6.13) among qualified starting pitchers. In 2019, Pivetta finished with a 5.38 ERA, 121st among 142 big-league pitchers who worked at least 90 innings.

I initially believed in Giolito last season because of his pedigree, a short time ago he was considered the best pitching prospect in baseball. Going into last season, seemingly every fantasy baseball expert listed Pivetta as a sleeper and deservedly so. He threw 164 innings in 2018 and a disappointing 4.77 ERA, but with strong peripherals (3.42 xFIP, 3.51 SIERA). There’s the pedigree.

The second reason I believed in Giolito is that he seemed determined to figure it out. Not only did he work on changing his mechanics, but he also used neurofeedback to address his mental health. To me, that showed clear dedication to figuring out the issues that caused his disastrous 2018. While I was researching Pivetta, I came across this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, detailing Pivetta’s off-season work. Takeaways from the article:

  • He moved from Canada to Los Angeles
  • He rewatched every start from last season
  • He trained from mid-October on with nearly a dozen pitchers, including, who else, Lucas Giolito as well as Max Fried, Jack Flaherty, and Noah Syndergaard
  • He overhauled his mechanics
  • He has spoken to Phillies pitching coach Bryan Price about incorporating a changeup
  • He worked 5 days a week with the strength and conditioning specialist Giolito worked with to improve his mechanics
  • He’s often the first pitcher at the gym

There’s the determination to get better.

Ottoneu owners are clearly feeling burned by Pivetta. He’s currently owned in just over 6% of leagues. Over his last 10 adds, his average cost was $1.70. Last year, everyone was on him. This year everyone is off of him. Now’s the time to buy (especially if you have a draft before he starts the Phillies’ Grapefruit League opener Saturday).

(Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)