Sep 8, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda (18) patches during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Baseball: Ranking the Yankees – No. 7, SP Hiroki Kuroda

The popularity of fantasy baseball is growing every year.  Whether you are a fantasy baseball veteran in multiple leagues each season, someone who plays casually or completely new to the game, there is a lot to know before creating your fantasy squad.The New York Yankees often boast plenty of fantasy options, and this year is no different after some huge additions this winter. You can look at a player’s value on the field and how they help the Yankees a certain way, but should take a different approach when analyzing their fantasy value.Fantasy players should take into account the size of their league, position eligibility, league scoring settings, position scarcity, injury history, playing time, ballpark and many other factors when determining whether a player is a prudent pick and when (or how much to spend) to draft them. As always, keep in mind who you are drafting with. If you are in a league with a ton of Yankee fans, you’re probably going to have to overpay for Yankee players.When taking a look at the top Yankees, there are a few stark differences in fantasy values with some. A few years ago, guys like C.C. Sabathia and Carlos Beltran were some of the first few players taken in drafts. Now the two veterans can be had for cheaper, but can still provide plenty of value. Some players are more valuable than they ever have been thanks to new roles on the team, and some are making their debuts on the fantasy scene.Over the next two weeks we’ll take a look at the top 10 most valuable Yankees in fantasy baseball. Counting down from 10 to 1, we’ll take an in-depth look at each player, what they can provide this year and when you should add them to your team.We continue our list with the seventh most valuable Yankee in fantasy baseball:Hiroki Kuroda, SP (Auction Value – $5)

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.

No. 10 – Ivan Nova, SP

No. 9 – Mark Teixeira, 1B

No. 8 — Brett Gardner, OF

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