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Arizona Diamondbacks All-Time Top 50: #42, Zack Godley

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Number 42 in our countdown is a pitcher who may not have been even a Top 100 Diamondback coming into the 2017 season.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
  • Avg Ranking (high/low/most common): 38.24 (10/50/48)
  • Seasons: 2015-2017
  • Stats: 62 games, 40 starts, 266.1 IP, 8.75 K/9, 4.19 ERA, 110 ERA+
  • Best Season: 2017 - 26 games, 25 starts, 155 IP, 9.58 K/9, 3.37 ERA, 142 ERA+

Hailing from Bamberg, South Carolina, Zachary “Bull” Godley was never expected to be an MLB starter. You’d be hard pressed to find many guys currently playing in the bigs who didn’t start pitching until their junior year of high school. Yet here he is, appearing on our Top 50 list in only his 3rd big league season.

Godley’s professional career began back in 2013 when he was drafted in the 10th round by the Chicago Cubs. He was ranked 487th by Baseball America heading into the draft, and in their scouting report they wrote that “Godley hit hit 95 mph as a reliever and probably fits better in that role as a pro.” Keep that quote in mind as we move forward.

The 6’3”, 235 pound right-hander pitched well early on in his minor league career. 2013 saw Godley post a 1.75 ERA in 13 relief appearances with Chicago’s Low-A minor league affiliate, followed by a 3.09 ERA in 2014 between the Cubs’ A and High-A clubs. Following the 2014 season, Minor League Ball did their annual review of each team’s prospects. In John Sickels’ (a very smart man) article on the Cubs, 46 prospects are mentioned. Godley is not one of them.

In December of 2014, Godley was the forgotten man in the trade which sent Miguel Montero to Chicago and brought Godley and Jeferson Mejia to the Valley. When our very own Jim McLennan wrote up an analysis on the trade, Godley’s section began “To start with the lesser prospect...” Bleacher Report wrote that “odds are his peak is somewhere around middle relief levels, but it’s possible the right pitching coach can help Godley figure out how to better use his frame.” The consensus was that Godley had an outside chance of becoming an MLB reliever, while Mejia was the true prize of the trade. While the jury is still out on Mejia, Godley is currently proving everyone wrong.

Godley’s debut came on July 23rd of 2015 when Chase Andersen headed to the DL. The Godley call-up was a surprise to virtually everyone, with him being pulled out of Double-A over top prospect Aaron Blair. The debut could not have gone any better for Zack. He earned the win against the Milwaukee Brewers, striking out 7 batters over 6 scoreless innings. Godley bounced back and forth between the majors and minors for the rest of 2015, and ended up appearing in 9 games (6 starts) at the MLB level. He finished the season with a 3.19 ERA, and headed into the 2016 season with a shot at cracking the Opening Day roster.

He did not crack the Opening Day roster. Spring Training was rough for Zack, as he posted an 11.88 ERA over 8.1 innings of work. He started 2016 in Double-A Mobile, eventually working his way up to Reno in May, then back on the MLB squad in June. It was a very rough season for Godley; he posted a 6.39 ERA in 27 appearances, 9 of which were starts.

Godley was left off the Opening Day roster again in 2017, but would be recalled from Reno on April 26th to make a spot start when Shelby Miller went down with an elbow injury. He was called back up to the majors on May 10th, and this time he stuck. Godley dominated hitters with his high ground ball and strikeout rates, posting a 2.67 ERA from April to June. Zack’s best start of the season (and his career) came on September 14th against the Rockies, pitching 8 scoreless innings to give the Diamondbacks a 5 game lead over Colorado for the first Wild Card.

2017 also gave Godley his first taste of the postseason. After NLDS Game 1 starter Taijuan Walker allowed 4 runs in the 1st inning to Los Angeles, Godley came in and pitched 5 innings of 2 run ball to keep the D-Backs in the game. They would unfortunately lose 8-5 on their way to getting swept by the Dodgers.

You have to wonder where the Diamondbacks would have been in 2017 without Godley filling in so wonderfully for Shelby Miller. His pleasantly surprising season earned him the SnakePit’s Unsung Hero Award, and 4th in the voting for Snakepit Pitcher of the Year. For the first couple months of the season, Godley may have been the best Zack G on the team.

Godley will play a pivotal role in Arizona’s 2018 rotation, and I’d argue that he has the greatest range of possible results for the season. We saw early on last season that Godley can be ace-like, but we also saw in 2016 that he can pitch below replacement level. I tend to believe that his 2018 will be much more like 2017 than 2016. If you want to predict that Godley will struggle next year, go for it. History would say that he’ll prove you wrong.