The season of sell-off in Seattle received its lone bright spot on Monday as Japanese starter Yusei Kikuchi agreed to terms with the Mariners, according to Jon Paul Morosi of the MLB Network.
The deal is reportedly worth $43 million over three years with a player option for a fourth year. The club also has an option which if exercised would see him stick in Seattle for another four years and $66 million.
Now that the question of where Kikuchi will land has been answered our attention shifts to where he fits within the 2018 prospect class landscape — provided your league views the 27-year-old lefty as prospect eligible as many leagues have age caps prohibiting international veterans from going in the minor league draft.
Kikuchi is coming of a season in the JPPL, which is the same league that produced Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani, that saw him pitch 163.2 innings to the tune of a 3.08 era and 8.4 K/9. His numbers this past season were his worst in a four-year stretch in which he battled some nagging injuries including shoulder tightness last season.
It’s evident that the southpaw, who routinely pitches in the lower 90s with his fastball and features a curveball, splitter and slider, isn’t in the same class as Darvish and Ohtani — particularly when it comes to his strikeout rate.
While he doesn’t possess No. 1 starter upside, his feel for pitching and experience should grade him out as a No. 2 fantasy option when things are going well with him settling in at No. 3 the rest of the time.
The question of whether to use a high pick to draft Kikuchi in a prospect draft probably comes down to timing. I think you can make the argument if you’re a team looking to win a championship or starting to enter its window to compete for a championship that you should take Kikuchi with the first pick overall. Sure, he probably doesn’t possess the upside of some of this year’s top prospects but his proximity to the majors compared to those same players combined with his relatively safe floor, provided he doesn’t get injured, would make him an impact addition for any would-be contender.
Teams playing the long game might choose to go in a different direction and draft one of the impact bats available or Casey Mize who boasts ace upside. It’s worth noting, however, that should Kikuchi find success his first time through the league, which often happens with experienced arms facing hitters seeing him for the first time, Kikuchi could net a decent prospect haul for a rebuilding team if flipped to a contender at the right time.
Known commodities in the prospect world are hard to come by and I’ll be drafting Kikuchi everywhere I can.
In redraft leagues I suspect Kikuchi will go somewhere in the range of the 25th to 35th pitcher off the board. Unlike my prospect draft thought process I’ll most likely be passing on Kikuchi in those leagues. While the price point seems fair, there are just too many young arms with upside that I want to target late in drafts. That, combined with the fact he won’t get any run support in Seattle this year and doesn’t have a standout carrying stat as a pitcher, means Kikuchi’s value sags for me.
Don’t like my analysis, let me know on Twitter: @CharlesTweed
Featured image of Yusei Kikuchi – via fieldlevelmedia.com