Breakout or Bust: Can The Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin Emerge As A Must Own Option?

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The Dodgers have a crowded rotation, but did Tony Gonsolin do enough in his 9 appearances (8 starts) in 2020 to earn himself a spot in 2021? He may not be able to be a locked in Top 5 option, given the Dodgers history of rotating arms, but with a 2.31 ERA and 0.84 WHIP over 46.2 IP you would think he’d get an opportunity to claim one of the five spots.

Before we get too excited, however, let’s take a look at the three skills we generally focus on:

  • Strikeouts – 8.87 K/9
  • Control – 1.35 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 34.2%

With a 14.0% SwStr% there is clearly more upside in his strikeout rate. He gained nearly 1.5 mph on his fastball, averaging 95.15 mph on his fourseam fastball, while increasing the usage of his split-finger fastball (24.68% to 29.79%). That pitch, along with his slider, are his key swing and miss pitches with Whiff% of 20.48% (splitter) and 27.97% (slider). With two potentially elite weapons like that, seeing a K/9 of 10.0 or better could be likely.

Gonsolin has always had good control, with a 3.0 BB/9 over his minor league career. Is he as good as he showed in 2020? It’s not likely, but he should be able to post a solid mark.

The real question comes down to his groundball rate, which went from 41.7% to 34.2%. It didn’t cost him in terms of home runs, though his 0.39 HR/9 will surely rise. That’s something that’s the one big red flag and will have a negative impact, but it’s not enough to completely write him off.

Just keep in mind that, along with the strikeouts and control, he showed an ability to limit the hard contact against him (30.3% Hard%). Sure he’s not going to maintain a .250 BABIP, but he also should be able to limit the hits/home runs against him.

With those skills would an ERA in the 3.50 to 3.75 really be surprising? That may not be elite, but it’s a solid option for the back of your fantasy rotation. Just make sure you have ample depth, since there’s no guarantee he is locked into the rotation for the long haul.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference

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