Lions to Post Kikuchi

The Siebu Lions have agreed to post Yusei Kikuchi to the major leagues next year. He becomes a free agent in Japan after the 2019 season. Kikuchi does not have the stuff of Shohei Ohtani or even Masahiro Tanaka. He is more representative of Hisashi Iwakuma, a smallish righthander who sits in the low 90s but can hit the mid-90s with his fastball.

Kikuchi had a season for the ages in 2017, going 16-6 with a 1.97 ERA. He struck out 217 batters and gave up just 122 hits in 187.2 innings. This year he is not so dominant (14-4, 3.08, 153 K’s and 124 hits in 163.2 innings). Reports say his slider is not as effective as it was in 2017.

At 6′0″ he is a small righthander and durability comes into question. Japanese pitchers are used to pitching every sixth day so they have one more day of rest than pitchers in the major leagues. This extra work could slow down the fastball.

Like Ohtani Kikuch wanted to avoid the Japanese draft so he could play in the major leagues right away. Players who choose to bypass the Japanese draft are prevented from returning to Japan to play in the NPB for three years. Signing with a Japanese team binds a player to that club for nine years.

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