2014 Late Round Pitching: Hiroki Kuroda
Last season I made a point of never drafting a starting pitcher in at least the first ten rounds of any draft. I was in seven Fantasy Baseball Leagues. I won two of those leagues and took second in three others. So, you would think that this strategy paid off pretty well and that I would stick to it in 2014. But I am not. Don’t get me wrong, I am still very against selecting a starter in the first or second rounds. I also do not advocate going pitching heavy in the earlier rounds either. But I’ve determined after years of waiting literally forever on pitchers that having at least one power arm and preferably two locked in is the best way to go. After you have locked in your guy(s) with a high K/9, low BB/9, high GB% & HR/FB rate (all of which are a necessity to select a starter in the early rounds) then you can safely wait to form the rest of your staff. That is why I started profiling these “Late Round Starters” that you can target late and still round out a high end staff when all is said and done. Over the coming days and weeks I will profile starters who are not in high demand despite being very Fantasy worthy.
Hiroki Kuroda – RHP – New York Yankees
2013 Stats: 11-13, 201.1 IP, 3.31 ERA, 150 K’s, 1.16 WHIP
Mock Draft Central: 174
FSTA Draft on January 15th, 2014: Drafted 16th round (199th overall)
Hiroki Kuroda never gets the love from Fantasy owners because he just doesn’t strikeout enough hitters. But he is a very reliable arm that keeps baserunners to a minimum and gobbles up innings. He’s the classic “non-sexy” pick who will be there later on and contribute to a serious Fantasy Baseball contender.
Kuroda dominates the lower edges of the strikezone. He generates a ton of groundballs (49% career) which minimizes damage of balls put in play. It also is key in getting double plays that kill rallies.
Both his sinker and slider have sharp downward bite and are incredibly tough for hitters to elevate. That is why despite playing in one of the most HR friendly ballparks and not having overwhelming stuff, Kuroda has only allowed 25 & 20 HR’s the past two seasons.
The best thing about drafting Kuroda is that you will be automatically bringing down your teams WHIP. Kuroda doesn’t allow many free passes which in turn limits the damage when a hitter does get the ball up in the air.
With the Yankees getting healthier this year there should be more opportunities for the pitching staff to accumulate wins. A guy like Kuroda who can pitch deep into ballgames while limiting his baserunners will always stand to win plenty of ballgames especially with some offensive support.
Kuroda’s fastball tops out at about 90 MPH and is practically batting practice variety when he leaves it up. Luckily that doesn’t happen often but is still concerning especially in Yankee Stadium.
He throws five pitches but each are only between 84-90 MPH. There isn’t enough variance here to throw off a hitters timing. This also allows hitters the ability to adjust on the pitch even if it wasn’t the one they were looking for.
Kuroda will be 39 years old and has thrown well over 2000 innings in his career (including Japanese league). He has been the picture of durability over the past five seasons but it’s never a safe bet on a pitcher of his age. Any downgrade in innings pitched will reflect negatively in his WHIP & ERA which are his main categories of impact in Fantasy Baseball.
You cannot build your pitching staff around guys like Hiroki Kuroda. But he can turn into an elite #3 or #4 starter for you if you are able to secure high K/9 arms earlier on in the draft. Often in the later rounds we end up chasing guys with high upside in the strikeout category while crushing our ERA & WHIP in the process. Go back and check your standings from 2013 and even 2012 if you can. When you look at the best pitching staffs in your leagues you will see Kuroda’s name in a lot of them. The best starting pitchers only truly impact three or four categories. Considering you can wait until almost 200 picks are off the board and still gobble up an elite player in at least two categories that is the very essence of value my friends.
Ideally I would like to wait on relievers and grab a couple lower end closers in the 11th-15th rounds. But...if you size up your league and realize that you're not the only one with that strategy it could backfire. So, if you think that 60% or more of your league are going to be playing "closer derby" on the waiver wire, go ahead and lock in a premium guy early (Kimbrel, Chapman, Jansen, etc) and then revisit the position in the 13th-16th rounds.
What's your draft strategy on Relief Pitchers? Which ones are you targeting? Thx. I like Kuroda late myself.
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