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Better know your Blue Jays 40-man: Yusei Kikuchi

Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles - Game Two Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Yusei Kikuchi is a 31-year-old (turns 32 in June) 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 3-year, $36 million contract before last season. It was front-loaded. He got $16 million last year and $10 each for the next two.

He’s a hard-throwing left-hander, who the Jays would echo Robbie Ray’s time with the Jays. And yeah, Ray’s first season (well, half-season) with the Jays wasn’t great. Of course, Kikuchi’s 2022 season aspired to ‘wasn’t great’.

Yusei went 6-7, in 32 games, 20 starts, with a 5.19 ERA.

He did have a great May, with a 2.36 ERA in 5 starts, when batters hit just .177 against him. We thought he figured things out, but then he was terrible in June, with a 7.17 ERA in 6 starts, batters hitting .314 with a .721 Sluggling average.

In mid-August, the Jays decided they should try him in the pen. And he was some better in the pen. He had a 4.91 ERA in 12 appearances. In 18.1 innings, he gave up 9 walks and had 33 strikeouts (the 40% strikeout rate looks good).

I mentioned, in the fall, that his -1.1 bWAR was the 18th worst in Jays' history. But some of the guys at the bottom of that list also had very good years too.

At the moment, it looks like Kikuchi will get every chance to take the fifth starter role again. I’d imagine that, if he has anything less than an awful spring, he’ll start the season in the rotation. Unless of course, the team signs someone in the next couple of months. Which is very possible.

I don’t know, he should be better, he throws hard (averaged 94.9 on his fastball), and has a cutter, slider and change. He has some good pitches, they should add up to better than we saw.

Steamer seems to think he’ll be better this year. They have him with a 3.86 ERA in 42 games, 18 starts, and 117.0 innings. If his ERA stays under 4 he’s going to get more than 18 starts.


If the over/under on Kikuchi’s innings is 117 I’d take

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  • 47%
    (214 votes)
  • 52%
    (240 votes)
454 votes total Vote Now


Kikuchi will have more

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  • 45%
    (202 votes)
  • 54%
    Relief appearances
    (243 votes)
445 votes total Vote Now


If the over/under on Kikuchi’s ERA is 4.00 I’d take the

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  • 71%
    (322 votes)
  • 28%
    (129 votes)
451 votes total Vote Now


Will Kikuchi be a Blue Jay right to the end of his contract?

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    (233 votes)
  • 47%
    (208 votes)
441 votes total Vote Now