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Fantasy Baseball Spring Training Update: The Two Gios

Cam gives an update on two players with intriguing starts to Spring Training: Gio Urshela and Lucas Giolito.

FT. MYERS, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 25: Lucas Giolito #54 of the Boston Red Sox delivers during the first inning of a Spring Training Grapefruit League game against the Minnesota Twins on February 23, 2024 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

My last name is Giangrande, pronounced “Gian” “Grande,” however, many have a hard time with the pronunciation. They tend to default to Giogrande, and pronounce my last that way: “Gio” “Grande”. It was so commonplace for my dad growing up that his nickname became Gio.

I’ve always had a special affinity with players who have that name. The two Gios I want to focus on today are Lucas Giolito and Gio Urshela. Giolito has signed with the Red Sox on a two-year/$38.5M deal. And Urshela accepted a one-year/$1.5M deal to play in Detroit.

Lucas Giolito Spring Training Update

With the plight of the Red Sox pitching staff, Giolito slots in as their No. 1 starter. There was a time when Giolito was a viable top starter, but those days have long since passed. His career ERA is nearly a whole run higher than his peak seasons from 2019-2021. His last two seasons have been rather disappointing. He has an ERA of nearly 5.00, and his record in that time was 19-24. On the plus side, he’s still striking out over a batter per inning, and his WHIP was a respectable 1.31 last year.

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If his first Spring Training start was any indication, Red Sox fans may be in for a surprisingly solid season. Giolito came right out of the box, throwing two hitless innings. He walked one and struck out one, showing tremendous command of the strike zone. It was only the first start of a very, very long season, but there were signs of hope.

To his credit, Giolito is one of the most durable pitchers in the game. He’s made at least 30 starts in four out of the last five seasons. He made 29 starts in 2019, missing 30 by one. And he’s struck out over 200 batters in three of those seasons.

Giolito may prove to be a sneaky great pick in your fantasy baseball drafts. Although I’d love to see him slotted in as a team’s third or even fourth starter, that just won’t be the case in Boston. They lost James Paxton to free agency, and they traded away Chris Sale in a salary dump. And Giolito is now pitching in the juggernaut of the AL East instead of the meager AL Central.

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But, Giolito may be able to revive his career by swapping out White Sox for Red Sox. He’s only entering his age-30 season, and he still has a fastball and a full repertoire of pitches. If he can reduce the HRs he gives up (92 over the last three seasons), which won’t be an easy task in Fenway Park, he will have a surprisingly good season. I project his numbers to resemble those of the back-to-back 11-9 seasons he had in 2021 and 2022.

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Gio Urshela Spring Training Update

Gio Urshela is now 32 years old and entering his 11th season with his sixth team. His breakout year was in 2019 with the Yankees. He played 132 games with 442 ABs. He managed to have over 70 runs and RBIs and hit 21 HRs and 34 doubles — all career highs. And he recorded a .314 AVG and .889 OPS.

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Then COVID happened, and he has never been able to duplicate that production since. He was mediocre in 2021 and 2022 and fell off a cliff last season, only playing 62 games. He’s eligible at both corner infield spots but stands to get the lion’s share of his playing time at 3B.

Spencer Torkelson isn’t going anywhere at 1B, but Urshela only has to outperform Matt Vierling to start at third. Vierling is five years younger and did show promise last season, hitting 10 HRs. Vierling is also eligible in the OF and actually played the majority of his games there last year.

Urshela already brings multi-positional eligibility and has also played shortstop 52 times in his career. With Javier Baez manning SS, it’s unlikely Urshela will see much action there, but with his overall versatility, Detroit may try to find creative ways to get his bat into the lineup.

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For his career, Urshela is a career .277 hitter with a .745 OPS. And although he most likely won’t ever reach his lofty 2019 production, he should be able to hit between 12 and 15 HRs with 400+ ABs.

He is the type of player you should target at the end of your draft, who could prove to be the lynchpin to a championship. He won’t cost much and will be completely overlooked by your competition. When you call him out, expect at least one of your competitors to say something like, “Urshela … He’s still in the league??? Good luck with him!”

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