Japanese pitcher Yusei Kikuchi will be the latest player to make the jump from Nippon Professional Baseball to MLB. Earlier this week, it was reported that the Seibu Lions were making Kikuchi available via the posting system, a system that has brought numerous stars from Japan to the U.S., most recently the Angels' Shohei Ohtani.
Kikuchi isn't a generational talent like Ohtani, but he will be a highly sought-after commodity this offseason thanks to his pitching success in Japan. Kikuchi had a 3.08 ERA with 153 strikeouts in 163.2 innings with Seibu this season.
Get to know him below:
Age: 27 years old
Position: Starting pitcher
Scouting Report: Kikuchi is projected as a mid-rotation pitcher with the potential to be a No. 2 starter. He is not quite on the level of pitchers like Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka, who came over from NPB this decade. Still, teams are always looking for left-handed starters, and Kikuchi's body of work (2.81 career ERA) and arsenal of pitches are solid. From Dennis Lin of the Athletic: "The makings of a quality major-league starter are there. Kikuchi’s fastball is consistently in the mid-90s. His curveball, slider and splitter all rate as average or slightly better. 'He is a good one,' one scout wrote in a text. 'Has not been real durable, but stuff is solid.'” A three-time All-Star in Japan, Kikuchi's best season was in 2017, when he posted a 1.97 ERA and 217 strikeouts in 187.2 innings. He doesn't have one outstanding pitch, but does possess several good ones.
Possible Suitors: Just about every team in baseball could benefit from adding Kikuchi to its rotation, so it's tough to speculate at this point on where he will end up. It was somewhat of a surprise when Ohtani decided to join the Angels last winter. All 30 teams have likely scouted Kikuchi to some extent, since it has been known for a while that he was expected to be posted this offseason. He will be one of the better pitchers on a free-agent market that also includes lefties Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel and J.A. Happ.
When He'll Sign: Kikuchi has not been formally posted yet. That is expected to happen in late November. Once that occurs, he'll have a 30-day period to negotiate with teams. Expect Kikuchi to choose his MLB destination sometime in December.