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Monday, January 9, 2012
Early fantasy rankings include Yu Darvish

By Richard Durrett

It's never too early to start getting things in order for your fantasy baseball draft, is it? So ESPN.com's Tristan H. Cockcroft has produced his top-250 list more than a month before spring training begins. It includes, as you can imagine, a fair number of Rangers. A quick look:

No. 26: OF Josh Hamilton
No. 28: 2B Ian Kinsler
No. 29: SS Elvis Andrus
No. 34: 3B Adrian Beltre
No. 45: C Mike Napoli
No. 57: RF Nelson Cruz
No. 63: DH Michael Young
No. 117: RHP Yu Darvish*
No. 129: RHP Neftali Feliz
No. 178: RHP Joe Nathan
No. 195: LHP Derek Holland
No. 206: RHP Alexi Ogando
No. 209: RHP Colby Lewis
No. 236: 1B Mitch Moreland
No. 241: RHP Mike Adams
* Darvish is ranked with the assumption that he'll sign with the Rangers before the deadline passes.

As for Darvish's fantasy value, Cockcroft talked about that at length a few weeks ago. Here's part of his take on him:
Regarded as the "complete package" as far as pitching prospects go, Darvish reportedly has a fastball that averages between 92-95 mph, a plus slider/slurve and five other handy secondary pitches: two-seamer, cutter, curveball, splitter, changeup. Opinions on him range wildly -- as you might expect with any Japanese import -- but the prevailing opinion is that he's a solid No. 2 big league starter.

Statistically speaking, Darvish is an eye-popping prospect. He was widely regarded the No. 1 pitcher in his league at the time of his posting -- though he failed to win the Sawamura Award, the equivalent of our Cy Young, in 2011 -- as he led Nippon Professional Baseball in strikeouts (276) and WHIP (0.82) and managed a career-best 1.44 ERA last season. In the past five seasons combined, his ERA is 1.72, his WHIP 0.89, his strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio 9.52 and his average strikeouts by season 217. Don't take those numbers at face value, as there's an obvious difference in rules and competition in Japan, but they'll certainly grab you.

How Darvish's numbers will translate to our game is the debate, and one of the primary challenges for fantasy owners in 2012 is to measure said translation.

Cockcroft noted the poor performance of recent pitchers from Japan coming over to the United States. But he also believes in Darvish's talent. So he's No. 30 among starting pitchers, just behind Stephen Strasburg and just ahead of Shaun Marcum.

In case you're wondering, here's the top-10:

1. Albert Pujols
2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Adrian Gonzalez
4. Troy Tulowitzki
5. Matt Kemp
6. Justin Upton
7. Justin Verlander
8. Jose Bautista
9. Robinson Cano
10. Roy Halladay