While it is hard to imagine 8-10 pitchers in the league that are better than Johan Santana, Yahoo has ranked him #9, and ESPN at #11 among Major League pitchers entering the fantasy season. That means based on most league formats, he should be drafted in the late 3rd or even early 4th rounds. So, why so late?Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN wrote an interesting article last week published here:http://sports.espn.go.com/fantasy/baseball/flb/story?page=mlbdk2k10santanahttp://sports.espn.go.com/fantasy/baseball/flb/story?page=mlbdk2k10santana
analyzing Johan's declining stats. He breaks down the relation between Johan's escalating "contact rate on swings" with his diminishing strikeout ratio over the last few seasons. His average velocity was a career low 90.5 mph last year making the difference between his fastball and his devastating change-up a lot less significant. In essence, according to these statistics, hitters are seeing the ball better against Johan. Add to that 2 surgeries, although one of which he recovered from with a Cy Young the following year, suspect run support, and even more suspect defense, and maybe these fantasy rankings are justified.However, looking at the competition, I have Mr. Santana a bit higher on my board. The top 3 are arguably Lincecum, Halladay and King Felix, and I expect Zack Greinke to continue his dominance fresh off his first Cy Young...I'll take him fourth. Adam Wainwright could have easily won that honor for the NL last year coming just 1 win shy of 20 with a miniscule 2.63 ERA for the Cards..Ill take him 5th. Big CC ended the year21-6 (including the playoffs), and is as good a candidate as any for a 20 win season with the Bombers..7th.
The next names consist of Dan Haren, Chis Carpenter, Cliff Lee, Justin Verlander, and Josh Johnson. Here is the limit of the effect of all that Cockcroft research. In Haren, Carpenter, and Verlander you have 3 veteran starters who are all coming off stellar years yet again, but who's ceiling has most likely already been exposed. We have probably seen the best of these guys..and although it's impressive, none of these guys are Johan Santana....especially considering Carpenter was MIA in '07 and '08, Verlander's '08 was about as ugly as it gets going 11-17, and Haren's loss column could hit double digits for the 4th time in his career pitching for a young inexperienced DBack team. Santana hasn't had years like that.
Josh Johnson will have a brilliant year in Florida most likely, fresh off his new contract, but I got to see another full year out of him before I put him in front of Johan. If Cliff Lee continues pitching like he did in the second half of last year and into the playoffs, then he'll have another Cy Young, but I don't think he can continue at this torrid pace. Santana is my 7th pitcher taken.Where will you guys draft him?