Where Should Fantasy Baseball Owners Draft Johan Santana in 2010?

Johan Santana had long been considered the best pitcher in baseball.  From 2004-2008 there wasn’t a pitcher who could touch him, posting some remarkable numbers, especially when you consider that he called the AL home up until 2008:

  • Struck out 200 or more batters every season
  • Had a sub-3.00 ERA in four out of five seasons (the other year saw him at 3.33)
  • Posted three WHIPs of 1.00 and better (and the other two season’s saw him post marks of 1.07 and 1.15)
  • Won 15 games or more every season, including years of 19 and 20

How many pitchers can boast that type of consistent success?

His 2009 season looked to be off to a similar start, going 7-2 with a 1.77 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 11.73 K/9 over 66 innings (10 starts) over the season’s first two months.  Then, the wheels seemed to falloff.

He struggled in June, posting a 6.19 ERA, before recovering in July (1.82) and August (3.94).  While the ERAs were still respectable, the strikeouts in those two months were down significantly (5.90) and while the WHIP was still good (1.15), he was allowing more base runners than he had been.

So, that leads us to ask, just what should we expect from Santana in 2010?

The injury that ended his season prematurely was to his elbow, an immediate red flag.  Despite Santana’s claims that he would have been able to complete the season had the Mets been in contention, it still has to make you wonder.  The Mets and Santana can claim that he will be ready for Spring Training, but until he takes the mound and proves that he is the same pitcher that he used to be there will be significant questions.

When it comes to fantasy owners, just how do you rank him?  Clearly, he has been unearthed from the top spot (now belonging to Tim Lincecum).  In fact, in our early Top 35 Fantasy Starting Pitchers (click here to view), he came in at #6, behind Lincecum, Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez, Zack Greinke and CC Sabathia.

Many believe that drafting starting pitchers early on is a mistake to begin with, feeling that you can find pitchers later on.  While that strategy is sound, I am not against taking someone early on if it makes sense.  If I am picking late in the second round and Tim Lincecum is sitting there, staring me in the face, I’m not going to be able to turn him down.  He’s a lights out starting pitcher, almost a guarantee to post a sub-3.00 ERA and 250 Ks in a season.  That’s just not something that you will “find” in the later rounds.

When it comes to Santana, at this point, you just don’t know what you are going to get so to gamble on him in the early rounds is an extreme risk.  While he could return to his Cy Young ways, especially in the confines of CitiField, how do we know for sure that he is completely over his injury?

That’s not to say that I think he’s a bad risk, because he’s not.  I truly believe that he’s going to regain his form and be a dominant starting pitcher, but in the first four and a half rounds on draft day, it is going to be extremely difficult to pull the trigger.

If he’s still sitting on the board at that point, however, it would really depend on how the first few rounds went to determine if I’d select him.  It certainly would be a very realistic possibility.

How about you?  Will you be targeting Santana on draft day?  How high are you willing to take him?

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