Yu Darvish has reportedly officially inked a long-term deal with the Texas Rangers. Now that all of the speculation and assumption has come to fruition, we can officially focus on what this means for your fantasy team. There have been a number of pitchers who have come over from Japan to pitch in the major leagues, so we have a decent sample size of data on such transitions.
Unfortunately, Darvish is far from any pitcher that has been imported from Japan. He is, in many ways, in a class of his own.
Darvish stands 6’5″and is half Iranian, so right there we can see how he breaks the mold of a pitcher like Daisuke Matsuzaka. The other way he breaks the mold of those who have made the transition before him is the level of success he had while in Japan.
Darvish has never posted an ERA above 1.88 or and has not posted an ERA above 1.78 in the last three seasons. Both Dice-K and Hideo Nomo played their age 25 season in Japan, while Darvish will spend his age 25 season as a member of the Texas Rangers. The numbers are extremely impressive. Compared to both Dice-K and Nomo, Darvush stands out as the head of the class. He posted a better strikeout rate, better walk rate and only allowed five home runs in his 232 innings pitched.
Despite the impressive numbers, there are a number of issues that may pop up during his transition to American baseball. Darvish threw a plethora of pitches in Japan, but not all will translate to the big leagues. He also will now grip a baseball that is bigger than the ones he hurled in Japan. He will also face bigger and more powerful hitter and do so while pitching home games in the hitter-friendly Ballpark in Arlington. All factors could, and most liekly will, lead to an increase in his walk rate and home run rate. Though he threw 232 innings in Japan last season, he only made 28 starts, compared to the 35 starts he could make as a member of a big league rotation. He’ll have to learn to toe the rubber with less rest than he was used to in Japan, a scenario that clearly did not work out well for Dice-K.
Even with these issues to consider, Darvish’s pure stuff, especially his sharp breaking slider, should allow him to succeed in the major leagues as big league hitters are the ones who will need to adjust. With that concept in mind, fantasy GM’s shouldn’t hesitate to draft Darvish as a top 30 fantasy pitcher.
ZiPS projects him to post a 3.62 ERA with 169 strikeouts this season. Those numbers are good, but not great in terms of fantasy baseball. However, given that hitters will likely be the ones to have to adjust and learn Yu Darvish’s pitches and tendencies, there’s a good chance he starts out the season on fire, which would make him a tremendous trade piece, especially on the heals of the tremendous hype, which, believe it or not, has only just begun