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Heyman | Will Kikuchi be next great Japanese import?

Jon Heyman

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Aug 5, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; A fan displays the flag of Japan in the seventh inning of the game between the Colorado Rockies and the Miami Marlins at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Jon Heyman is an MLB Insider for FanRag Sports, featuring breaking news, information and his Inside Baseball column, which appears on FanRagSports.com every Thursday. Heyman also has been an insider at MLB Network since the channel launched in 2009 and is a regular contributor to WFAN in New York, where he appears weekly on the Joe and Evan Show and previously appeared on the Mike and the Mad Dog Show. He also appears on WSCR in Chicago, WBZ-FM in Boston and the Petros and Money Show on Fox in Los Angeles. Heyman comes to FanRag Sports from CBSSports.com, where he worked for five years and wrote the popular Inside Baseball notes column. Before going to CBS, Heyman worked for five years at Sports Illustrated and SI.com, where he was a senior writer and started an Inside Baseball Column. Heyman worked for 16 years at Newsday in New York, where he was the Yankees beat writer, a baseball columnist and finally a general sports columnist. Heyman started his career at the Moline (Ill.) Daily Dispatch, then moved to the Los Angeles Copley Newspapers (Torrance Daily Breeze and Santa Monica Outlook) before going to Newsday. Heyman at one time also served as a national baseball writer for The Sporting News. Heyman is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. The Santa Fe, N.M. native grew up in Cedarhurst, N.Y., on Long Island.

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