Key Stats: Johan Santana was the best pitcher in fantasy baseball from 2004 through 2010. Last year was the first time he was not ranked in Yahoo's top 100 rankings in a long time. Even in 2010 when his season was shut down a month before the rest of his teammates could pack up, Santana still put together a season that made him the 90th player on Yahoo's player rater. The obvious concern with Santana is if he will ever be the same pitcher again and if he will ever be healthy again. The answer to the first question does not matter at this point (number 148) in a mixed-league draft. He won't ever be the same pitcher again, but so what? If he is healthy enough to pitch, you wouldn't take him at this point in the draft? I would take a fraction of the pitcher he was in 2010 at this point in the draft, and that's what most people expect him to be.
Skeptics Say: Will he ever be healthy again? Time will tell, but as Musings & Prophecies points out in the blogger's take Santana's injury is similar to that of Chien-Ming Wang. Even before Santana ever got hurt in 2010, his fantasy value was taking a significant hit. From 2003 through 2007 with the Twins he struck out 9.7 hitters per 9 innings. In his three seasons with the Mets, Santana has managed to strikeout only 7.4 hitters per 9 innings. Compound all of this with the fact that he'll be 33 years old and the glass has never looked half-emptier (yes, half-emptier).
Peer Comparison: Call Santana's age relatively young at age 33, but we've seen pitchers fall off the map because of injury at younger ages. Brandon Webb threw just 4 innings at age 30 and never made it back. Ben Sheets battled injury his whole career and ultimately hung it up at age 31. That was the case with those pitchers, but everyone is different. According to a New York Times article shortly after Santana was shut down in 2010, Dr. Craig Levitz (studied under Dr. James Andrews) claimed that Santana could come back stronger from the surgery and will improve as he gets to the 100 innings threshold. Dr. Levitz correctly predicted that Santana was unlikley to pitch at all in 2011.
Al Leiter was quoted in this story and claimed that he was a better pitcher only after having shoulder surgery. Let's keep in perspective that Santana was rehabbing toward the end of the 2011 season, so it's not as if he's mile away from getting back on the mound. It's realistic that he will start the season in the Mets rotation. If that's the case, how can CBS not rank him in the top 100 starting pitchers? How can Tristan Cockcroft leave him out of the top 70 starters for 2012?
Team Outlook: It appears increasingly likely that Santana will have a new catalyst trying to give him run support and a different shortstop trying to turn double plays behind him. Jose Reyes to the Marlins is close to a done deal. The Mets aren't likely to deal the other star on the left side of the infield, but even if David Wright stays on Santana is looking at a very different team than he had behind him in September 2010. No more Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo, or Francisco Rodriguez. The stains from the Omar Minaya regime are being removed one by one, but will this make Santana better? Given that strikeouts won't help his value as much as it has in the past and that Santana will probably not be able to work as deep into games, he is going to need help in the win column to have fantasy value.
A Blogger’s Take: If you're drafting Johan Santana, you may be drafting his name only. Santana's torn capsule has kept him out for all of 2011 and a portion of 2010, and has been compared to Chien-Ming Wang as they both have the same injury. Wang returned for the Nationals last season and posted numbers that have been somewhat comparable to his best seasons with the Yankees. But Santana has different stuff, higher standards to reach, and is a year older. Johan actually pitched late last season in the minors briefly and in the instructional league, so he will most likely be good to go in 2012, but will it be at the high standards that Santana has set? And there's a big difference between pitching in rehab stints where Johan's schedule was tailored to his recovery, and pitching every fifth day in the majors. So draft him late (very late), and don't expect the Johan of 2008-2010. - Musings and Prophecies of Metsradamus
What They’re Saying: CBS Sportsline: Not Ranked in Top 100 Starting Pitchers; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: Not Ranked in Top 70 Starting Pitchers & Not Ranked in Top 250 Overall; RotoChamp: Not Ranked in Top 300
Projection: Even with the diminishing strikeouts and the age cranking up, Santana knows how to pitch. Like any veteran, Santana will find a way to keep hitters off base, runs off the scoreboard, and be an effective starter. It's all he's done his whole career.
13 wins 3.05 ERA 1.20 WHIP 130 K in 150 innings