I’m going to be perfectly honest: I typically stay away from Johan Santana. I’ve only drafted Johan once in my life, and then I flipped him for Brandon Webb and Michael Young, and dominated my league. Another disclaimer – I’m a Mariners fan, so I’m in love with Cliff Lee at this point, as I’m sure many Phillies fans were last season.
This year, Johan and Lee have some extra intrigue surrounding each of them, and are being drafted relatively close to each other. Johan is coming off September elbow surgery, and Lee is in a new (old) league again with a new squad. Johan is currently the seventh pitcher off the board (41), with Lee being the ninth pitcher being drafted (51). But should Lee be going before Santana?
Johan has posted two nice seasons since going to New York. In 2008 he pitched a career high 234.1 innings, won 16 games and had an ERA of 2.53. I would call that a more than superb fantasy season, but a 1.15 WHIP and 7.91 K/9 dropped him down a bit. Last season, before his injury woes, Santana pitched 166.2 innings, won 13 games and had an ERA of 3.13. Once again, however, a 7.88 K/9 and 1.21 WHIP made that season less valuable. I find it strange that no one is talking about Johan’s drop in strikeout rate since he entered the NL. From 2002-2007, he never struck out less than a batter an inning, and now he is doing so consistently. CHONE projects his strikeout rate to be at 8.11, with fan and Marcel projects hovering around the same mark. But what proof do we have that his strikeout rate should rise back towards his career average (even if it is only a slight bump)?
Lee has been fabulous since his return to the bigs late in 2007. In ’08 he posted a 2.54 ERA (3.57 xFIP) and struck out 170 batters in 223 innings. Splitting time with the Indians and Phillies in ’09, Lee struck out 181 batters in 231.2 innings, earning himself a 3.22 ERA (3.69 xFIP). Looking at his 2009 as a whole, his strikeout rate was an improvement from 2008, but in reality it may not have been. His strikeout rate in the AL was worse than 2008, coming in at 6.34 per nine. The defense behind him and the spacious Safeco field will only help his ERA and WHIP next year, and Fans may have it right by projecting a 1.06 WHIP and 3.16 ERA.
Doing a quick comparison, which starter would you rather have? The pitcher that’s coming off surgery and has Jason Bay as their left fielder, or the pitcher with an outstanding defense and ballpark around him? I’d rather have Lee, but that’s not to say he’s being drafted too low. I think switching him and Santana in the draft order would be best, but in the end Santana just needs to move down below Lee on draft day.