So, where should this guy go in a draft? In my mind, he is a No. 3 starter or a "soft" No. 2 with perhaps the potential to be an ace. If he is a No. 3, that makes him a top-36 starting pitcher and puts him on the outside looking in at the top 100 players overall. The tricky part, though, is figuring out when he starts becoming a good bet to jump from, say, the 36th-best starter to maybe the 24th, 25th or 26th.
For those who follow on Twitter, the blog and the show on MLB.com and MLB Network know that I am not a big fan of taking starters early. I think they are too volatile and that the real value is getting a loaded offense and finding the breakout guys later on, but for now I will put that all aside and pretend I am targeting Darvish.
We know right off the bat there is absolutely no reason to take Darvish over Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, Felix Hernandez, Cole Hamels, CC Sabathia, Jered Weaver, David Price, Dan Haren or Jon Lester. Given that, he's no higher than the 13th-best starter in fantasy. The next 12 pitchers we have seen have very good to great seasons in the big leagues, and perhaps should be ranked higher: Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Matt Cain, James Shields, Mat Latos, Ian Kennedy, Madison Bumgarner, Daniel Hudson, Ricky Romero, Gio Gonzalez, Matt Garza and C.J. Wilson.
So now we have Darvish as the 25th-best starter, which puts him as a No. 3 starter. This is where it gets interesting and where drafting Darvish based on hype and World Baseball Classic highlights can either help or hurt you.
Have you noticed there are some pretty big names missing from those top 24? There are reasons for that and it's at this point that it's at least reasonable to start thinking about Darvish.
Let's take a closer look at who hasn't yet been mentioned. Stephen Strasburg, anyone? The Chosen One was in line to be a top-10 guy almost out of the gate but Tommy John surgery has a way of scaring people off. Strasburg had a big September and I expect him to get back on track. I'd take him over Darvish.
Speaking of injuries, what about Adam Wainwright and Josh Johnson? Wainwright looks like he could have a normal spring and he was elite before having Tommy John surgery last spring. Johnson is elite when he's on the mound but he's also elite at getting hurt. Give me Wainwright over Darvish but I'll pass on Johnson due to trust issues concerning health.
Michael Pineda and Brandon Beachy had fantastic rookie seasons in 2011. Yes they both tired in the second half, but guess what? Shouldn't we expect the same from Darvish, who will pitch in the Texas heat, throw a larger-sized ball from a different type of mound and face much better hitters and lineups then he did in Japan? Give me Pineda and Beachy over Darvish.
Let's not forget Josh Beckett and Tommy Hanson. There are injury concerns about both but they've also had steady-enough production in the past to take them over Darvish.
Now we are finally in the bingo hall for Darvish's value. Take the next handful of starters, throw them in the spinner with Darvish and whoever comes out, you can make a decent argument that he should be next. Among those would be, in no specific order, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, uber-prospect Matt Moore, defending American League Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson, Anibal Sanchez, Tim Hudson and even Petco Park favorite Cory Luebke.
Now that we have digested all that, where do we stand? I have Darvish as the 32nd-ranked starting pitcher heading into this year's fantasy drafts. Whether you have him at No. 28 or 38, that's fine -- that is kind of the point.
There are certain pitchers about whom you cannot really argue comfortably that he is better than others due to the fact he has never pitched in the big leagues. It is all about how much risk you are willing to take. The best part about fantasy sports and life in general is free will. Go get 'em. I'll be drafting Ervin Santana, Derek Holland, Bud Norris and Max Scherzer rounds later.