2020 Projection: Is Joey Lucchesi A Prime Post-Hype Sleeper Or Does More Disappointment Await?

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There’s often a difference between the hype and the actual talent, with expectations reaching a fever pitch. The real question is for the following season, when the bloom is off the rose. Does the perceived struggles create a Post-Hype Sleeper, or are is the disappointing player easily ignored. That’s the question we have to answer for the Padres’ Joey Lucchesi, who failed to produce impressive marks a year ago:

163.2 IP
10 Wins
4.18 ERA
1.22 WHIP
158 Strikeouts (8.69 K/9)
56 Walks (3.08 BB/9)
47.0% Groundball Rate
.271 BABIP

Obviously there was nothing that stood out in those numbers, so why would we believe that he has the potential to be a post-hype sleeper? At the very least there’s the home/road split, and while it’s no surprise that he was better at home do you really expect it to be this extreme:

  • Home – 2.56 ERA
  • Road – 6.22 ERA

While the home mark was buoyed by a bit of luck (.223 BABIP, 82.8% strand rate), the road luck metrics certainly should be better (.322 BABIP, 63.1% strand rate). What doesn’t make much sense is the 55.1% groundball rate at home, compared to a 38.4% road mark. Doesn’t he throw the same pitches, regardless of where he’s pitching?

Lucchesi did increase the utilization of his fourseam fastball overall, but diversifying his repertoire further would likely go a long way:

  • Sinker – 50.45%
  • Changeup – 34.05%
  • Fourseam – 14.43%
  • Curveball – 1.06%

He’s virtually a two-pitch pitcher, especially since his fourseam fastball was hardly impressive (.291 AVG, .551 SLG). Utilizing his curveball or another breaking ball would certainly go a long way in allowing him to fully develop, which is interesting considering Prospect 361 described Lucchesi prior to the 2018 season by saying:

“If you add it all up, you have a lefty with three above-average pitches who throws strikes.”

It’s easy to envision him throwing his third pitch more and more, and therefore giving him another weapon. He’s already proven that he has the ability to generate swings and misses to go along with solid control and an ability to get groundballs. While he may not be elite in any area, would it be shocking to see him remain solid across the board in all three skills that we look for? How about carrying that home groundball rate to the road?

It all comes together to create the following projection for 2020:

2020 Projection:

180.0 IP, 12 W, 3.90 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 175 K (8.75 K/9), 63 BB (3.15 BB/9)

Those are solid numbers and well worth targeting at the back of your rotation, but the potential is there to be even better. With that in mind, he’s an easy player to target at the end of your draft (especially since others will likely ignore him given the lackluster history).

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Prospect 361

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