While a new Japanese import has grabbed all the headlines over the past month, the return of Hiroki Kuroda may be one of the more important moves of the winter.
Since joining the Yankees in 2012 he has been arguably the most consistent force in the rotation. He’s won 27 games and struck out 317 with a 3.31 ERA and 1.163 WHIP in his two seasons in the Bronx. During that time, he’s thrown 65 quality starts for the Bombers, more than any other starter.
Because of his consistency he’s been a very valuable fantasy asset over his entire career. Entering his 17th professional season between Japan and MLB and at age 39, there were whispers at the end of last year that Kuroda may retire. But he agreed to return on a one-year, $15 million contract and provides the team with stability in the rotation.
Kuroda is such a fantasy asset because of that consistency. Since joining the major leagues in 2008 he has never had an ERA above 3.76 and his highest WHIP was 1.216 in his rookie year. In six seasons he has a WHIP of 1.179. He has great control (2.1 career BB/9) and strikes out about seven per nine. His splitter is his feature pitch and has helped him generate a career ground ball percentage of 49.0.
While he is getting older, he’s shown no signs of slowing down the past two years and there’s no reason to think he can’t provide another quality season for fantasy owners. He did have a somewhat rough stretch late in the season that saw his ERA jump from 2.41 on Aug. 17 to 3.31 at the end of the year. But that was such a small sample size and he was so good for the majority of the year that it’s hard to be too concerned over that stretch.
Kuroda is going for around $5 in most auction drafts and should be taken in the mid-to-late-teen rounds in 12-team snake drafts. He gives you modest strikeout numbers but helps you in all other categories and should see a jump in wins over last year given the improvements the Yankees made over the past few months. With his stability and experience, there’s little reason why you wouldn’t expect a solid return on your investment.