Japanese Future MLBers: #4 – Hiroki Kuroda

Today’s featured player, Hiroki Kuroda, has the clearest path of anyone in this series to the majors. Long the ace of the Hiroshima Carp, Kuroda became a free agent at the recent conclusion of the NPB season and is free to sign with any team (MLB or NPB) he likes – no posting fee required. Although he doesn’t have the upside of Igawa, Kuroda will likely be the cheapest NPB player on the market this offseason, which earns him a higher place on this list.

Hiroki Kuroda, RHSPUnlike Igawa, Kuroda was drafted not out of high school but rather after playing college ball in Senshu University. The Carp took him in the second round of the 1996 draft; he earned a rotation spot in 1997 and has remained there ever since. He stands slightly shorter than Igawa at 6 feet even, weighing about 190 pounds, and is right-handed.

2006 was perhaps Kuroda’s finest year. He finished the season with a career-low 1.85 ERA in 189.3 innings (25 starts) despite playing his home games in a hitter’s park. Kuroda features outstanding control: in his 190 innings, he only walked 21 hitters, almost exactly one walk per nine innings. He also struck out 144 hitters and only allowed 12 home runs. Over the past two seasons (402 IP), Kuroda’s rate stats include 6.9 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, .65 HR/9, 4.9 K/BB, and a 2.55 ERA.

YouTube doesn’t seem to feature any video of Kuroda pitching, so known scouting data is by word-of-mouth only. He is said to feature a mid-90s fastball, slider, forkball, and shuuto (also called a “reverse slider”, it’s a pitch similar to a screwball, but with less break). Without seeing his arsenal, it’s tough to tell for sure, but his mediocre strikeout rates in Japan will probably not translate well to America (there are exceptions – Takashi Saito’s strikeout rate was much higher with the Dodgers than in his last several seasons on the BayStars, for instance).

Based on his stuff, statistics, and age, Hiroki Kuroda profiles as a #3-#4 starter in MLB. With a little luck, he could turn out seasons like Paul Byrd‘s 2002 or Brad Radke‘s 2004. If he struggles, he could become Carlos Silva (2006 edition). He still could decide to stay in NPB; however, the financial lure of MLB as well as the chance to prove himself against better competition will likely result in him signing with a major league team. Expect a 2-3 year contract at $5-$7 million per season.

Hiroki Kuroda 2006 Statistics:

 W  L   ERA  GP  GS CG ShO Hld  GF Sv     IP    H   R  ER  HR  BB  SO   OBA
13  6  1.86  25  25  7   2   0   0  0  189.0  169  49  39  12  21 143  .243

Detect-O-Vision on Kuroda
Hiroki Kuroda Statistics
Hiroki Kuroda Biographical Data
Pictures of Hiroki Kuroda

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6 Responses to “Japanese Future MLBers: #4 – Hiroki Kuroda”

  1. Matt Says:

    At 1:10 in this video he’s throwing a slider. If you want to see a flat out filthy one, go to 1:50 and Nagisa Arakaki is throwing his. It’s filthy.

    I found this on Kuroda. One pitch.

    A few pitches here in the first minute or so.

    thats about all i found

  2. Kyle S Says:

    Good finds. Not a big fan of those crummy camera angles in the last video, though. Oh well.

  3. East Windup Chronicle » Blog Archive » Possible MLB and Roto Contributors for 2008: Part Two: Pitchers Says:

    […] Hiroki Kuroda, SP, Hiroshima Carp. 6-0, 187 lb. Throws: Right. Age: 32 […]

  4. Free Agent Class of 2007-2008 - TheScoreBoards Says:

    […] cheapest NPB player on the market this offseason, which earns him a higher place on this list. Japanese Future MLBers: #4 – Hiroki Kuroda And this one […]

  5. The Philly Sports Journal » Expect a surprise from Gillick Says:

    […] The Phils also have J.D. Durbin and may or may not re-sign Kyle Lohse, whose agent, Scott Boras, is seeking a five-year deal. And there’s the possibility of acquiring Japanese ace Hiroki Kuroda. […]

  6. wegossips Says:

    I like hiroki kuroda very much,.. I wish I can meet with him :)

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