MLB Network's Robert Flores sees bounce back year for Lucas Giolito


MLB Network host sees bounce back year for Lucas Giolito originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Lucas Giolito arguably recorded his worst season on the pitching mound last year, since he began as a full-time starter in 2018.

His WAR dropped dramatically, going from 4.2 last season to 0.5 this past 2022 season. But, one MLB expert sees a brighter future for Giolito as soon as next season.

"Don't sleep on Lucas Giolito bouncing back," Robert Flores. "We talked to him earlier this offseason. He said he put on 20 pounds thinking that it would help him. It did not help. Not so much."

RELATED: Why MLB host thinks White Sox will be 'markedly better' in '23

Indeed, Giolito went into the last offseason with a rigorous training regimen, designed to help him add weight and put on muscle. The hope was he could increase his velocities with more strength. Yet, quite the opposite transpired. His fastball, offspeed and breaking velocities all decreased last season from the previous year, according to Baseball Savant.

Now, he's tapering his weight back down, so he can return to the Lucas Giolito White Sox fans know to have made the top 10 in American League Cy Young voting the past three seasons.

Surely, there are other reasons for Giolito to return to peak form.

"It's also his walk year. So, a good time to bounce back for Lucas Giolito," Flores said.

This upcoming season marks the end of the arbitration rounds for Giolito. He will become an unrestricted free agent in 2024 and will seek a formidable deal. Spotrac market value projections see him as a ~$18 million per year player.

Will he perform well enough to earn a contract of that scale? He has to work back to All-Star caliber form to receive that kind of number.

"We also talked to him in the Dominican Republic when he and I were there earlier this offseason . . . he was saying he's figured out some things mechanically. When his changeup is right it is one of the best pitches in all of baseball," Flores said.

The weight gain, plus a change in his arsenal helped factor into a troublesome season. For starters, he threw his changeup - his marquee pitch - just over 6 percent less than he did in 2021. He threw his fastball and slider more in 2022, of which batters hit .283 and .280, respectively, according to Baseball Savant.

Giolito's changeup didn't do much better. In 2021, batters hit .218 against Giolito's changeup. This season, .248 from the plate. The run value of his go-to pitch went from -11 to 7 between the past two seasons. The hill to climb for Giolito is steep, but it doesn't seem like it can get any worse than last year.

There's too much evidence from 2019-21 to suggest he's on the cusp of a steady decline. Certainly, his and the White Sox' insistence on gaining weight before last season and decreasing his reliability on his changeup could pose as factors to a fluke season that saw him pitch one of his worst collective years.

Giolito was once the ace for the White Sox, and he should return to form barring any unforeseen, drastic offseason changes.

"I think he's one of the most thoughtful, intelligent players that we have at the Major League level," Flores said. "And I think that he's going to bounce back, I think, with the White Sox. Clearly, there were some issues that accounted for why the team performed the way they did. And under this new manager and new leadership, I think that they're going to bounce back."

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