Yanks interested in Yusei Kikuchi?
Yusei Kikuchi, an 18-year old lefty who pitched for the Hanamaki Higashi High School baseball team as recently as Monday, is expected to be the number one pick in Japan’s upcoming amateur draft. However, Kikuchi is currently debating whether or not to skip Japan’s draft completely so that he may seek a contract with an MLB club (he’ll be considered a free agent). We could learn of his decision this week. Despite the very raw nature of Kikuchi’s talent, his fairly impressive two-pitch repertoire has reportedly enticed a bevy of organizations, including the Yankees, who have apparently scouted him this year.
Kikuchi throws a slow, looping curveball (mid 70′s), plus his fastball can register 95 mph on the radar gun. He often incorporates a cartoonish eephus pitch, as well, which you can see in the video featured above (go to the 3:00 mark).
If he were to bypass the Japanese draft and sign with a Major League organization, Kikuchi would likely fit into their respective minor-league system just as any other American high school prospect would. He seems like a solid enough talent, one that is intriguing on a number of levels, and should continue to garner significant interest from the Yankees and others. According to Pat Lackey (Fanhouse), if he chooses to sign with an American club, Kikuchi will likely receive a lesser contract than fellow countryman, Junichi Tazawa, who was considered a more polished product when the Red Sox signed him for $3.3 million over 3 years, last winter.
I know many of you have soured on Japanese players after the Kei Igawa debacle, however, it can’t hurt to continue evaluating talented players like Kikuchi, especially if they can be had at a young age and without paying a posting fee.