The offseason is a critical time for fantasy owners to study the past performances of MLB players, look for trends and opportunities and determine who to target in spring drafts. However, for a variety of reasons, there are a number of individuals who are difficult to classify. So what are fantasy enthusiasts supposed to think about Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish?
A few major league teams have expressed at least a passing interest in the 25-year-old righthander, who is reportedly mulling over a potential move to the states and looking for about $50 million in exclusive negotiating rights. At this point in time, there is a lot of rumor and conjecture surrounding Darvish and his plans. But fantasy owners need to be aware of Darvish’s ability and be prepared to make an informed decision about acquiring his services in their respective leagues.
Project Prospect put together a rather comprehensive scouting report on Darvish, which serves to illustrate the extent of his talent and how ready he may be to contribute in fantasy leagues of all types and sizes.
According to the report, Darvish is a 6-foot-5 righthander who still has room to add weight and muscle to his frame. He features a four-seam fastball capable of reaching 93-95 miles per hour, a two-seam fastball, a cutter and three breaking balls. His fastball can sink and cut, and it has a little late movement to it. Two of those breaking pitches are forms of a slider and one is a curveball capable of traveling at speeds as low as 60 MPH.
Darvish has amassed a tremendous statistical profile in his four seasons with Nippon Ham in the Nippon Professional Baseball League, which is widely considered one of the better international leagues in the world. The talented righthander is 58-22 with a 1.81 earned run average in 98 starts. His durability cannot be questioned, as Darvish has not thrown less than 182 innings in those four seasons. Here are some other notable statistics for Darvish over his past four seasons:
- 0.909 WHIP
- 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings
- 807 strikeouts
- 185 walks
- 4.36 strikeout-to-walk ratio
With stats like those listed above, it is no surprise Darvish’s potential arrival in the United States is one of the most widely discussed topics of this offseason.
Three MLB teams have expressed interest in paying for Darvish’s services and adding him to their rotations as soon as 2012: the New York Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Washington Nationals. How would a pitcher of Darvish’s talent and experience fit in with each organization?
- Yankees – Depth is not a word one would associate with New York’s pitching rotation. Ace CC Sabathia is one of the most reliable arms in the game, Ivan Nova impressed in 2011, but A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon are hardly desirable elite fantasy assets. Garcia signed a one-year deal to remain with the team, but Colon is a free agent. Darvish seems like a logical and desirable option as a mid-rotation starter for the Yankees. In the past, the organization has been aggressive in their efforts to court international players – with mixed results. That being said, it is no surprise New York is one of the odds-on favorites to land Darvish. One has to be concerned about Darvish being able to perform effectively for such a high-profile organization with lofty goals and standards for success, but he’d get no shortage of run support and would not have to step in immediately and become the squad’s de-facto ace.
- Blue Jays – An American League East team can never have too much pitching, and the Blue Jays have a great need for a hurler of Darvish’s caliber. Ricky Romero impressed as the squad’s No. 1 in 2011, posting a 2.92 ERA and winning 15 games, but he doesn’t miss a ton of bats and is unlikely to match that sparkling ERA in 2012. Brandon Morrow has the stuff of an ace, but lacks durability and consistency. It isn’t hard to imagine Darvish pitching himself into the rotation and outperforming fellow Blue Jays pitchers Dustin McGowan, Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek, among others, to remain a starter throughout the season. Like the Yankees, the Blue Jays offense offers plenty of run support and Darvish would be able to avoid the pressure and scrutiny that comes along with being a high-priced acquisition with the Bronx Bombers.
- Washington – Make no mistake about it, the Nationals are very much a team on the rise. Steven Strasburg is among the most gifted pitchers in the game, Jordan Zimmerman is a high-end No.2 starter, but the rest of Washington rotation lacks depth. John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler are not reliable starters in anyone’s mind. Darvish would be a great fit for the up-and-coming Nats. The squad is not elite, so Darvish would be afforded the opportunity to develop and grow accustomed to playing in the majors without the added pressure of playing for a contender.
It’s unclear if Darvish will don an MLB uniform in 2012. According to John Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, the talented righthander is “more likely than not” going to sign with a major league team in 2012. However, there is no timetable for a decision. The expectation is Darvish’s squad will allow him to leave if he makes such a request. So MLB teams and fantasy owners wait.
However, what is known is Darvish is a very talented pitcher with the stuff to be a starter in the major leagues. It’s easy for astute fantasy enthusiasts to recall the failed MLB careers of other hyped international pitching prospects such as Kei Igawa and Hideki Irabu, as well as the inconsistent production provided by imports like Daisuke Matsuzaka and Byung-Hyun Kim.
While those concerns can’t be completely discounted, Darvish is at a prime age for a pitcher, has had unbelievable success in his young career and has tremendous stuff. If he signs, he should be ranked among the top 20-25 pitchers heading into 2012 drafts. He should be drafted in first 8-10 rounds of a mixed league draft, and even higher in single-league formats. Simply stated, buy into the hype. It’s warranted.