Yusei Kikuchi looks like he could be the next big thing to come to the MLB from Japan.
Kikuchi (62-44 lifetime with a 2.74 ERA while playing in mostly Japan, but also a short stint in Australia) isn’t the sensation that the Ruthian Shohei Ohtani is (who is!?), but he is one of the better pitchers in Japan.
Kikuchi, who features a 95-mph fastball and four-pitch repertoire, is thought to be leaning toward a move to MLB.
“He’s coming,” one person familiar with his situation insists, though nothing is set in stone.
If he does come, he won’t be the bargain Ohtani is, as he wouldn’t be subject to the international bonus rules that limited Ohtani. He would be posted by Seibu, which doesn’t draw well and is expected to be interested in the posting fee.
The 26-year-old, who is listed by Baseball-Reference at 6-foot and 194 lbs., has been with Seibu since 2011 following a short stay in Australia. Last season, he started 26 games and went 16-6 with a 2.35 ERA and WHIP under 1.000. He struck out 10.4 batters per nine innings while walking only 2.3. In 2018, he’s made two starts so far, winning both while allowing just three earned runs in 15 innings (1.80 ERA). He’s struck out 14 and walked just three.
Unfortunately, he’s not quite at Ohtani’s level with the bat; he has just three hits in 17 career plate appearances with a double serving as the only extra-base hit of his career.