I was among the many people downgrading Hiroki Kuroda last year after he signed with New York and called Yankee Stadium his new home. Obviously the offense backing him would be better — it’s not surprising that he increased his win total from 13 to 16 — but I didn’t think he’d be able to keep his ERA low enough to remain a valuable fantasy option. For a player who doesn’t wow with his strikeout totals, a very good ERA was a necessity.
So like I said, I was wrong in counting out Kuroda. For the second straight season he outperformed his FIP by a wide margin, and you can thank his well-above average strand rate (LOB%) for that. Honestly, projecting Kuroda’s strand rate in 2013 is a dicey proposition at best. He was under 69% in his first three MLB seasons and over 77% in his last two. The league average is around 72% annually, so Kuroda is either very good or very bad. If I have to guess which side he’ll end up on this year (and I’m writing this so I do), I’ll have to go with what he’s done more recently.
At a Glance
Strengths: W, ERA, BB, QS
Neutral: K, L, BB, WHIP
Best-case scenario: Johnny Cueto (CIN)
Likely scenario: Jarrod Parker (OAK), Homer Bailey (CIN), Ryan Vogelsong (SF)
Worst-case scenario: Trevor Cahill (ARI)
Hiroki Kuroda 2013 Fantasy Projection
Even if Kuroda’s strand rate is lower this year than we project and his ERA rises to the 3.50-3.75 range, he can still be a very useful fantasy player. Ivan Nova has shown us that winning boatloads of games is possible in New York even if your ERA isn’t that great, and due to his 200-inning ways we can expect Kuroda to be at least league average in strikeouts. He’s durable and he’ll have value, but just how much will be determined by his strand rate.
Unlike Jarrod Parker, the player I think most closely resembles Kuroda, there isn’t a lot of upside for New York’s most durable starter not named CC Sabathia. If you’re drafting Kuroda it’s because you’ve either fallen in love with his stability or your computer autopicked him for you.
There are worse things in life, and in fantasy, than owning Kuroda, though. In fact, owning Kuroda might be one of the better decisions you make, especially if you’re in a keeper league. Remember, when your league puts a premium on youth, great values can be had with reliable, aging veterans, and that’s exactly who Kuroda is.