More MLB Teams Interested in Kikuchi, including the Phillies

Posted by at 14 October, at 18 : 00 PM Print

By Philip Riccobono

As October ends, so does the wait to know which side of the Pacific Yusei Kikuchi, 18, will reside. Kikuchi is just weeks away from announcing where he will begin his professional baseball career–Japan or the United States. Never before has such a player gained MLB attention from Japan’s high school level.

MLB teams that are scheduled to meet with Kikuchi, are the Dodgers, Rangers, Giants, Mariners, Mets, Yankees and Indians. The curiosity is understandable- he is 6’0, 180, with the southpaw’s fastball clocked at 96 mph. “The Phillies have seen him and have some interest,” said Sal Agostinelli, International Scouting Director for the Philadelphia Phillies. “He’s got a good body, a good, loose arm, and breaking ball with pro stuff.”

On top of the physical prowess, Kikuchi’s makeup is what every team dreams of; Kikuchi is a studious kid who reads 10 books per month, nor worrying about TV and video games. By all accounts, he seems to be a conscientious young man. The Nikkan Sports Draft Guide’s blurb on him leads off with an anecdote about how a writer was standing while watching Kikuchi throw a bullpen session. Without saying anything, Kikuchi walked off the mound, and returned a few minutes later with a folding chair, offering it to the writer to sit in.

There is also a lot of weight resting on the shoulders of the Iwate prefecture native. His life-long dream of pitching for a MLB is colliding with his country’s desire to have him drafted by a Japanese club. Someone this special leaving would break the hearts of Japan baseball. MLB scouts know the potential for Kikuchi to shine in MLB, but also consider the investment, “He has to want to come to the states,” said Agostinelli. “He’s facing obvious cultural changes.”

Kikuchi can lead a max exodus from Japan, becoming the first to sign as a MLB free agent, directly from high school. Before rules are changed, prohibiting MLB clubs from signing Japan prospects out of high school, Kikuchi will have a chance at making history. Japan baseball rules prohibit a player from returning to Japan for 3 years if they sign with a MLB club; the alternative– Kikuchi could sign with a Japanese team and wait 9 years to be a free agent and fulfill his goal of being a MLB pitcher; or wait and see if his Japanese team would post him, allowing teams to bid on his rights. If Kikuchi does not make the leap now, he may miss MLB altogether.

Folks, this cliffhanger is about to end.
NPB Tracker contributed to this story

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