Get to know Japanese pitcher Yusei Kikuchi –

If your team is in need of a left-handed starting pitcher this offseason, you’re in luck. The free-agent pool features a former Cy Young Award winner in Dallas Keuchel, two two-time All-Stars in Patrick Corbin and Gio Gonzalez and 2018 All-Star J.A. Happ. That lot only grew deeper as the Seibu Lions of Nippon Professional Baseball are set to post 27-year-old starter Yusei Kikuchi, adding yet another impact lefty to the available pool.

With a number of MLB teams expressing interest, it’s likely that Kikuchi will be pitching for an MLB team in 2019. It’s time to get to know a little bit about the latest Japanese star ready to come stateside just in case that team happens to be yours.

He didn’t want to come to MLB until he dominated Japan

As an 18-year-old in 2009, Kikuchi could have skipped out on Japan’s amateur draft to come to the United States, but decided to stay in Japan because he wanted to dominate there first. “I’ll try to take on the world once I have become the No. 1 pitcher in Japan,” he said at the time.

And Kikuchi has dominated Japan, especially recently. He posted his finest season in 2017 as a 26-year-old, pitching 187 2/3 innings with a 1.97 ERA. He struck out over a batter per inning for the first time in his professional career and lowered what had previously been a somewhat troublesome walk rate. He followed that up in 2018 with a 3.08 ERA over 163 2/3 innings, while maintaining the improved walk rate of the previous season. 

His repertoire has been compared to Corbin

Like Corbin, Kikuchi primarily relies on two pitches to get outs. He has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, but can get up to 96-98 mph

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