I have been the Commissioner of the Old Bridge Fantasy Baseball League (“OBFBL”) since 1999. In the past 11 years, based on the structure of the league and the point values associated with various scoring statistics, one of the major keys to success is having a good to great pitching staff. Much like real baseball, having a potent offense can help get you to the post-season. But in order to make a run in the playoffs and win the league, teams must rely on a solid and consistent pitching staff to carry them. That being said, there have always been a select few pitchers that people regard so highly to make them their first overall selection at the draft. Here is a breakdown of all pitchers taken in the first round since 1999:
1999 – Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown
2000 – Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez
2001 – Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina
2002 – Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling
2003 – Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Barry Zito
2004 – Mark Prior, Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson, Eric Gagne, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Javier Vazquez, Roy Halladay, Kerry Wood
2005 – Randy Johnson, Johan Santana, Curt Schilling, Jason Schmidt, Pedro Martinez
2006 – Johan Santana, Randy Johnson, Chris Carpenter, Jake Peavy
2007 – Johan Santana
2008 – Johan Santana, Jake Peavy
2009 – C.C. Sabathia, Tim Lincecum, Johan Santana
As you can see, at least one pitcher has been taken in the first round every year since 1999. In 2007, only one pitcher was taken in the first round. In 2004, an astounding 9 pitchers were taken in the first round. Bear in mind, my fantasy baseball league has 18 teams. This means that half of the first round was comprised of pitchers, including a frickin’ relief pitcher in Eric Gagne.
So what pitcher(s) is forecast to be a first round pick in 2010? Johan Santana, a first round pick every year since 2005, is coming back from elbow surgery on a questionable Mets team. When he did pitch last year, his numbers were pedestrian compared to his career stats. I don’t see any way he is a first round pick this year. That’s not to say he won’t be, but it does not appear he warrants such high fantasy regard at this point. C.C. Sabathia enjoyed the “Yankee bias” by being the 4th overall selection in the 2009 draft. However, he certainly put up stats that justified such a draft position in his first year in New York. There is a good chance he will be a first round pick again in 2010. Finally, Tim Lincecum’s selection as the 6th overall pick in 2009 paid dividends as well. Coming off two consecutive dominant seasons as baseball’s lankiest flamethrower, Lincecum is a surefire first round pick.
What about anyone else? While Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Josh Beckett, John Lester, Zack Greinke, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright are all terrific pitchers with gaudy stats, they are not first round picks in an 18-team head-to-head points league. When looking at their 2009 fantasy points, it becomes an obvious analysis because these pitchers’ fantasy points are dwarfed by hitters who put up several HUNDRED more points.
So, the lesson to be learned is that you should always draft the best available player at a particular time in th draft. This statement should be confined to the early rounds, meaning that in the 2nd round when you have a choice between Justin Morneau and Adam Wainwright, you take Morneau and don’t look back. You can always get a pitcher who will put up similar points (NOT STATS) several rounds later. Gone are the days of Randy Johnson putting up over 800 points in a season, which is ungodly for any player let alone a pitcher. To put it in perspective, the only offensive players to top 800 points in an OBFBL season are Barry Bonds (2001) and Albert Pujols (2009). Randy Johnson did it four times. As good as Tim Lincecum is, he is no Randy Johnson. But, he is the Randy Johnson of this draft, and in 2010, Lincecum should be the only pitcher worth taking in the first round.