Ervin Santana: To Draft Or Not To Draft

Mar 24, 2009

Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Entering 2008, Ervin Santana was a pitcher considered to have elite talent, if he ever could put things together.  In 2006 and 2007 he was a star pitching at home, but was terrible on the road, posting lines of:

  • 2006 – 87.2 IP, 6 W, 5.95 ERA
  • 2007 – 73.0 IP, 1 W, 8.38 ERA

He was one of those pitchers that you could use half the time, severely limiting his value for fantasy owners.  In 2008, his third full season as a major league pitcher, things suddenly clicked.  He was lights out nearly every time he toed the rubber, posting a line of:

16 Wins
219.0 Innings
3.49 ERA
1.12 WHIP
214 Strikeouts (8.79 K/9)
47 Walks (1.93 BB/9)
.302 BABIP

If there was nothing else surrounding him, I’d have entered 2009 concerned about a major regression.  Granted, perhaps he was a pitcher who needed time to adjust to life at the upper levels.  He made just 3 starts at Triple-A before making his debut, so his struggles should not have been a complete surprise.

The turnaround, and its completeness, just seems hard for me to believe.  For one was the strikeouts.  He had posted a career minor league K/9 of 8.6, but a 9.4 at Single-A in 2003 buoyed that.  In the major leagues he had shown some potential, with a 7.6 in 2007, but the rise seems a bit unrealistic.  A regression was likely.

The same could be said for the walks, with a minor league career BB/9 of 2.8.  In his three partial seasons prior to last year, his number was over 3.0 every season.  I’m just not buying the incredible drop-off.

Those two things would have been enough for me to be skeptical, to shy away from him.  Not avoid him, but not be willing to gamble on him as high as he was being drafted.

Now, the injury bug has crept into the discussion.  He is suffering from a sprained MCL, causing him to be shutdown for the time being.  Mike Scioscia was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, “We don’t anticipate it being something that’s going to set him back for any appreciable part of the season, but we’re certainly going to take it slow and work him back to where he needs to be”.

That doesn’t sound like a serious problem, but it would appear that he is likely to miss the bulk of April.  Let’s not forget, at this time last season the word going around about Kelvim Escobar’s injury was something minor, something that was only going to cost him a month.  Next thing we knew, his season was over, his career was in question and he’s still not ready to return to the mound (May appears to be the earliest, which is still ahead of schedule).

I’m not going to suggest that Santana will follow a similar path, but at this point who really knows.  Could Santana return quickly and post numbers similar to what he did last season?  Of course, anything is possible, but then again he could struggle as well.  Whenever a pitcher is dealing with shoulder problems, there is significant cause for concern.

What the Angels will do to replace him in the rotation is questionable.  They had three pitchers competing for the fifth spot, so it would appear now two of them are in line to break camp with the team (barring the signing of a pitcher like Pedro Martinez).  The in-house candidates, Dustin Moseley, Shane Loux and Nick Adenhart, do not inspire much confidence among fantasy owners.

Let’s take a look:

  • Moseley – The former 2000 First Round Draft Pick has posted a minor league ERA of 4.44 over 904.0 innings and a 5.52 ERA over parts of three major league seasons.
  • Adenhart – Long considered a top prospect, he was awful over three starts in the major leagues last season as well as struggling to a 5.76 ERA at Triple-A.  He likely has the highest ceiling and could be worth watching, if he can get things straightened out, but that is a huge if at this point.
  • Loux – A Second Round Draft Pick in 1997, he has a career minor league ERA of 4.45 over 10 seasons and a major league ERA of 6.41.

If you are an owner who already has Santana, look elsewhere.

As far as those still considering him, I’d certainly tread carefully.  He currently has an ADP of 99.60 (and falling), according to Mock Draft Central, putting him in the middle of the eighth round.  With my fears about a regression, I wouldn’t have taken him that early anyways, but when you factor in the injury there’s no way.

If he slips, and I mean significantly, then I’d consider stashing him away.  His lowest draft position is at 142, the eleventh round, and that’s just not enough for me.  I have too much concern, especially with a shoulder injury, to take him in a spot where he would be a prime piece to my rotation.

What about you?  Is Santana someone you are still considering or are you like me and passing on him altogether?

Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.

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