Yankees: Five Underrated FA Starting Pitchers

Mariners reinstate Yusei Kikuchi from IL in time for All-Star Game at Coors  Field – The Denver Post
Elaine Thompson

Yusei Kikuchi

After being posted by the Seibu Lions in December of 2018, Kikuchi was one of the most sought-after pitchers in that offseason. The consensus number one prospect in Japan, Kikuchi initially tried to join the MLB straight out of HS, foregoing the NPB. In fact, the Yankees had conversations with Kikuchi in 2009, but he ultimately decided to stay in Japan, becoming the first overall pick in 2010. The left-hander dominated in the NPB, before signing a 4 year, $56 million deal with the Mariners in early 2019. However, it’s safe to say that Kikuchi’s success in Japan did not carry over here in the US. Before opting out of his contract, Kikuchi posted a 15-24 record, carrying a 4.97 ERA. The numbers are not good. He is consistently one of the hardest-hit pitchers in the league, he walks batters, and he gets significantly worse as the season progresses. So why is he on this list? There is no denying that Kikuchi possesses raw talent as a pitcher. His velocity and movement are compared to 2021 Robbie Ray, according to Baseball Savant. We all know how dominant Ray was, so there is certainly a tremendous upside. Kikuchi’s changeup is tremendous, as seen by a K rate of 40.7%. Considering how poorly Kikuchi has done these past couple of years, the Yankees could most likely sign Kikuchi on a short-term, low-risk deal. Whether he signs with the Yanks or not, it will be interesting to see if Kikuchi is able to return to his NPB form.

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