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Projecting Yu Darvish

Posted By Mike Axisa On January 19, 2012 @ 12:15 pm In Starting Pitchers | 7 Comments

The Rangers finally got their man yesterday, agreeing to sign Yu Darvish to a six-year, $60 million contract on top of the $51.7 million posting fee they will pay the Nippon Ham Fighters. At $111.7 million overall, it’s the most money any team has ever invested in a right-handed pitcher as part of one contract in baseball history. Darvish won’t get all of that money of course, but that’s what Texas is shelling out to get him. Interestingly enough, the 50th percentile ZiPS projection values his next five years at 22.4 WAR and $112 million.

As you know, Darvish’s performance in Japan was out of this world good. He’s had several years with the Nippon Ham Fighters better than Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s best season with the Seibu Lions, better than anything Kei Igawa or Hiroki Kuroda or Hideki Irabu ever did. At 25 years old and with a scouting report that reads like a pitcher you created in a video game, fans have every reason to get excited about his future. But how should we value him in fantasy?

Darvish’s expected performance is next to impossible to pin down because of the difference between NPB and MLB, meaning the talent level, the actual baseballs and mounds, park effects, the whole nine. The recent history of Japanese pitchers coming over to the bigs isn’t very good, though Dice-K has been better than he generally gets credit for. Darvish is a different breed though, he’s physically bigger than most of his peers (listed at 6-foot-5, 220 lbs.) and is a pure power pitcher. Let’s see what the projection systems have to say…

W IP ERA WHIP K/9 WAR
Oliver n/a 193 2.45 0.99 10.3 6.4
ZiPS 13 194 3.62 n/a 7.8 4.5
CAIRO 14 190 3.44 1.25 7.1 n/a
RotoChamp 15 200 3.33 1.17 8.1 n/a

Obligatory: Projections are not predictions, just a reasonable estimate of talent level.

Three of the four systems essentially agree with each other while Oliver is really far out there on the optimistic side. That system basically sees 2010 Felix Hernandez potential, while the others are stuck somewhere between the 2011 versions of Javier Vazquez and Wandy Rodriguez. That’s definitely not a bad thing, but I get the sense that Darvish will be valued much more highly on draft day. It felt like everyone I spoke to thought Dice-K went much earlier than expected back in 2007.

My biggest concern for Darvish is his workload, especially at such a young age. He threw 232 innings last year and has thrown at least 200 in four of the last five years, but that was on a seven-day schedule. Now he’ll be pitching on a five-day schedule in that 100-degree Texas heat all summer, so fatigue down the stretch is definitely something worth monitoring. Then again, he’s young and world-class athlete, so perhaps he’ll just power through it. It’s all part of the mystery.

Since we don’t have a player or fan projections page for Darvish just yet, I intend to do a little crowdsouring early next week to see what the masses have to say about his expected 2012 output. We’ll also crowdsource his average draft position at some point as well. I expect him to be something like the 20th starting pitcher off the board at the moment, maybe even a little bit later than that. There’s no denying the upside, but those early picks should be spent on certainty.


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