I have read on a few sites recently some praise for Ervin Santana. The argument dictates how Santana is a third year starting pitcher who had decent numbers last year and should improve upon them this year. Some have even said Santana could wind up in the Top 20 SPs by year's end.
I disagree. Santana is a decent pitcher, but nothing more. I doubt he will ever become something more. Most of his numbers seem to have reached their ceiling. The first is Groundball Percentage. This is something that rarely fluctuates more than a few points unless new pitches are added to a guy's repertoire. Santana's was 36.6% in 2005 and 38.4% in 2006. Not very good. I don't see much improvement here.
To make up for a low GB Percentage, a pitcher has to strike a lot of guys out and keep his walk rate fairly low in order to become a top pitcher. Santana had a 6.22 K/9. While a spike is possible, I highly doubt Santana will get that around 8 where it needs to be. I even see 7 as a stretch. Guys don't just all of a sudden start striking more guys out because they've been in the league for two years. Doesn't happen very often.
That's two strikes against Santana. To retaliate from this he needs impeccable control... which he doesn't have. Control is the most likely of the three most important stats to improve upon. Santana had a 3.09 BB/9 in 2006, which is decent. That gave him a 2.01 K/BB.
If he could get his K/9 to 7.00 and his BB/9 to 2.5, he could be pretty effective. But even if that happened, he still wouldn't be a Top 20 SP. He probably wouldn't even be a Top 30 SP.
So why are people so high on Santana? Because his surface numbers last year (4.28 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 21 HRs) look pretty good. What these people aren't looking at is his .266 BABIP - well below average - and his 29 Expected Home Runs. He should have given up 8 more HRs and a ton more hits. This will even out this year and Santana could fall into Fantasy Baseball obscurity if he doesn't improve his peripherals.
Don't buy into the false hype. Avoid Ervin Santana.