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Thursday, January 19, 2012
What is Yu Darvish's fantasy value?

By Richard Durrett

ESPN.com's Tristan H. Cockcroft took a look at Yu Darvish's fantasy value. Here's part of the story:
Regarded as the "complete package" as far as pitching prospects go, Darvish reportedly has a fastball that averages between 92 and 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 as 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.

But Cockcroft acknowledges two "worries," as he puts it:
" The lengthier MLB season, which could lead to possible late-season fatigue. Matsuzaka, for example, had a 3.79 ERA through his first 25 starts of 2007, generally the number he threw in Japan, but a 6.86 ERA in his next seven. Nomo, meanwhile, had a 1.91 ERA through Aug. 10 of 1995, but a 4.09 mark thereafter. That's not enough evidence to say definitively that it will also happen to Darvish, but it's possible that fatigue played a part in either example.

" Japanese pitchers, as a whole, also haven't had a great track record of extended success in MLB. Again, there isn't a large enough list of examples to make any definitive measure of translations from Japan to MLB, nor to make a clear statement that Darvish will follow the same, rocky path as his predecessors. But nine Japanese pitchers who had 30-plus career starts -- Matsuzaka, Nomo, Hideki Irabu, Kasuhisa Ishii, Kenshin Kawakami, Hiroki Kuroda, Tomo Ohka, Mac Suzuki and Masato Yoshii -- experienced career struggles that might worry Darvish's keeper-league owners:

Year 1: 3.98 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 7.84 K/9, 8.32 H/9, 1.00 HR/9 collectively.
Year 2: 3.82 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 7.29 K/9, 8.05 H/9, 1.02 HR/9
Year 3: 4.91 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 6.83 K/9, 9.45 H/9, 1.20 HR/9
Year 4 and beyond: 4.55 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 6.68 K/9, 9.10 H/9, 1.23 HR/9

Perhaps owners freshly drafting/buying Darvish in keeper leagues this preseason shouldn't open their wallets to the extent that the Rangers will. The possible reward is substantial; the long-term risk might be equally so.

But for 2012 alone, Darvish is well worth fantasy consideration … so long as the hype train doesn't charge out of control. He's now my No. 30 starting pitcher and No. 116 player overall, both ranks directly behind Stephen Strasburg.

Considering the risks involved with each pitcher, that seems somewhat appropriate.