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Better know your Blue Jays 40-man: Yusei Kikuchi

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays-Workouts Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Yusei Kikuchi is a 30-year-old, left-handed pitcher, born in Morioka, Japan. He signed with the Mariners before the 2019 season.

In 8 seasons in the NPB, Kikuchi had a 73-46 record and a 2.77 ERA. Seattle won the bidding war for him when he decided to come over to the MLB.

In three years with Seattle, Yusei had a 14-24 record and a 4.97 ERA in 70 starts. Career batters have hit .267/.332/.474 against him. He struck out 20.6% of batters and walked 8.3%. Last year he struck out 24.5% and walked 9.3% in 157.0 innings, with a 4.41 ERA.

The Jays signed him to a three-year contract. He gets $16 million this year, and $10 million each for the next two. Front loading, I wonder why (I know why don’t explain).

The Blue Jays would like him to cut back a bit on the walks, but beyond that, he looks pretty good for someone going into the 5th slot in the rotation.

Kikuchi, last year, threw a four-seam fastball 36.0% of the time (averaging 95.3 MPH), cutter 34.7% of the time (91.4 MPH), a slider 18.9% of the time and a change (10.5%).

For comparison, Robby Ray’s four-sean fastball averaged 94.6 MPH. The Jays would like Pete Walker to do the same for Kikuchi as he did for Ray. I mean, they aren’t stupid, they don’t think they’ll get another Cy Young winner, but a little improvement would be great.

Grant Brisbee wrote:

Kikuchi throws 95 from the left side, which might not be as rare as it used to be for relievers, but it’s still the highest velocity of any left-hander who threw more than 150 innings last season. Again, that’s the hottest first-inning fastball from the left side in baseball. There are building blocks, and then there are building blocks. Velocity isn’t everything, but it still counts. It’s how Kikuchi made the 2021 American League All-Star team, and it’s why he felt comfortable enough in this market to decline a $13 million player option with the Mariners.

But...

According to StatCast, the average exit velocity against Kikuchi is in the first percentile. That is not a typo. Take a random sample of 100 major-league pitchers, and it’s likely that batters hit the ball harder against Kikuchi than any of them.

So that’s what the Jays are going to have to figure out, how he can throw the ball without it getting crushed.

Also, consistency has been an issue, he can be great for a bit (3-4 games) and then, well, a fair bit less than great for a bit (3 or 4 games).

PECOTA figures Yusei to start 25 games, throwing 137.1 innings, with a 3.79 ERA. I’d be very happy with that ERA, (especially considerating that he will be moving from a pitchers park to a hitters park) but then I’d like him to make a few more starts. In the two full seasons of his 3-year career, he’s made 32 starts and 29 starts. There doesn’t seem to be an injury history.

Poll

If the over/under on Kikuchi’s ERA is 3.79 I’d take the

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    Over
    (238 votes)
  • 22%
    Under
    (69 votes)
307 votes total Vote Now

Poll

If the over/under on Kikuchi’s innings is 140 I’d take the

This poll is closed

  • 74%
    Over
    (220 votes)
  • 25%
    Under
    (75 votes)
295 votes total Vote Now