It has been a while since Chris Young -- the 6-foot-10 pitcher from Princeton, not the rejuvenated Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder -- mattered for those in fantasy leagues, but make no mistake, he certainly did matter. Young's problem was rarely his pitching ability, but rather an ability to stay healthy. He's in the news after agreeing to a free-agent deal with the New York Mets on Monday, pending a physical, which in Young's case is hardly a formality.
However, if healthy this is precisely the type of situation that could work out well for the Mets and fantasy owners. Frankly, when looking at the current New York rotation, they might need this to work out. Young is one of the most extreme fly-ball pitchers in baseball, and that wasn't a big problem when he called spacious Petco Park his home stadium. Well, if you've been paying attention the past two seasons, you know New York's Citi Field is rather friendly to pitchers as well. Plus, terrific medical personnel awaits in the New York area.
I'd like to recommend Young as one of those late-round, deeper-league sleepers, because this is a fellow with a 3.80 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in his seven-year career. He never won many games -- his career high is 12 -- but he did possess a nice strikeout rate from 2006 to 2008, and was among the most difficult right-handed pitchers to hit. All of this upside is, of course, tempered by annual trips to the disabled list. The guy made only four starts in 2010 ... but that 0.90 ERA sure looks nice!
Young doesn't look overly attractive for 10-team mixed leagues yet, but then again, how many Mets are? In a recent mock draft, I watched as only two Mets pitchers came off the board at all, and both were overdrafted, if you ask me. Hey, Johan Santana is awesome, but I'm guessing too many people are unaware he could miss half the season. And closer Francisco Rodriguez actually wasn't at all bad in 2010, despite the off-the-field mess going on around him and having his season end six weeks early. But he's still a closer, and most of the top ones go way too early in comparison to others. K-Rod finished 16th among closers on the ESPN Player Rater but was top 10 while active.
Santana underwent shoulder surgery in September, and while he has been a fast healer in the past, even hurling through most injuries, this one is different. The Mets plan to get Santana on a throwing program in time for Spring Training, but he's expected to miss at least April and May. Remove those 10-15 starts and, well, it's tough to make a case for Santana as a top-30 starting pitcher.
If I'm drafting today, Rodriguez is the first Mets pitcher off the board, but he's out of my top 100. Most closers are. I'll draft one closer in the first 10 rounds and then see who slips. I can see people avoiding David Aardsma/Brandon League, Brad Lidge, Kevin Gregg, those types. Santana barely makes my top-40 starting pitchers. Quality is nice, but we need some quantity as well, and this is a major injury.
Briefly, here are my thoughts on Mets starting pitchers, in personal rank order:
• Johan Santana: A top-40 starting pitcher means Round 15 or so. Don't ignore the risks.
• R.A. Dickey: Knuckleballer finished fifth among all Mets on the Player Rater. Perhaps he can fashion another 1.99 ERA in 81-plus home innings, but it seems unlikely. Nobody knows where the knuckler will flutter. Still, seems odd that those overall numbers (2.84 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) aren't draft-worthy. I'd take him in the last round.
• Mike Pelfrey: I'd feel better about him if there was strikeout potential. Pelfrey won 15 games, but that 3.66 ERA hardly matches the 1.37 WHIP. And generally we believe the WHIP. Then again, remove his ghastly July (10.02 ERA) and he had a nice season. I'll call for an ERA in the 4s, and never, ever draft on the previous season's wins. He could win only nine games this year.
• Jonathon Niese: Lefty was a bit too hittable, and somehow pitched better away from home. Poor second half doesn't bode well, but I'd say there's more upside with him than Pelfrey.
• Chris Young: I don't see him pitching poorly, but will he make 30 starts or five? Smart dollar risk in an auction format.
• Chris Capuano: Yeah, desperation sinks in. Capuano made it back from a second Tommy John surgery and did OK for the Brewers. Moving to Citi Field should help the strikeout/fly ball lefty, but that 18-win season was six seasons ago.
• Dillon Gee: Probably too early to tell, though his numbers in five Mets starts look attractive. Don't get too excited about 15 walks versus 17 strikeouts, though, and was lucky, too, with a .232 batting average on balls in play. He's ticketed for Triple-A Buffalo.
• Jenrry Mejia: Name to watch for 2012. Top-shelf prospect should have been starting at Binghamton or Buffalo rather than toiling in middle relief in the bigs. Dynasty leaguers take notice.