|Saitama Seibu Lions – No. 16|
June 17, 1991 |
Morioka, Iwate, Japan
|NPB: June 12, 2011 for the Saitama Seibu Lions|
(through 2013 season)
Yusei Kikuchi (菊池 雄星 Kikuchi Yūsē?, born June 17, 1991) is a Japanese left-handed pitcher who currently plays for the Saitama Seibu Lions of Nippon Professional Baseball. Kikuchi mixes a fastball that was clocked at 154 km/h (96 mph) in the third round of the Japan National Sports Festival, though it routinely sits in the high-80s, with a slider in the mid-70s.
In October 2009, Kikuchi sparked controversy when it was announced that he was considering bypassing the amateur draft in Japan for the NPB and signing with an American Major League Baseball club. Under Major League Baseball's current rules, Kikuchi would not have been subject to the MLB Draft and instead be declared a free agent, free to sign with any American team he wanted. The Texas Rangers were one of several teams interested in signing Kikuchi, as well as the Boston Red Sox. Japanese news service reports also identified scouts from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, New York Mets, Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees watching Kikuchi in tournaments. All 12 NPB teams were also reportedly interested in signing the pitcher.
Hanamaki Higashi manager Hiroshi Sasaki submitted paperwork to the high school baseball federation in Iwate Prefecture on Kikuchi's behalf, stating his desire to turn pro. The move opened the way for professional teams to make contact with Kikuchi in a race to secure his services. With the submission of the paperwork, Kikuchi was open to be named in the Japanese baseball draft, which began on October 29, 2009. He was expected to be named as a No. 1 draft pick by several Japanese clubs. NPB had asked that Kikuchi not receive an offer from any major league clubs before Japan's draft, in order to even the chances for Japanese teams, who are not allowed to make offers before the draft. Kikuchi helped Hanamaki Higashi to a runnerup finish at the national high school invitational in April and to the semifinals in the national championship in August. Kikuchi had reportedly expressed a preference to play in the United States and even visited in October.
Kikuchi would have been the first Japanese high school player to bypass the domestic amateur draft to come to MLB. By staying, players lock themselves into nine seasons before they're eligible for free agency. They can leave only if their Japanese team allows them to enter the posting system in which MLB teams can bid for the right to negotiate with them. Furthermore, leaving for an American team bans players from Japanese leagues for three years. Kikuchi held talks with the Red Sox, Dodgers, Rangers, and Giants on Monday, October 19, and talks with the Yankees, Mets, and Mariners the following day. On October 25, 2009, he reportedly decided to stay in Japan and enter the draft instead of playing in the United States. On November 20, Kikuchi signed a pro deal with the Saitama Seibu Lions; the deal included a 100 million yen (about $1 million) signing bonus, a 15 million yen ($150,000) first year salary, and 50 million yen ($500,000) in performance bonuses.
- Kikuchi gets pro career off ground, Japan Times. Published October 6, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
- Newman, Patrick. Kikuchi Signs With Seibu, NPB Tracker. Published November 20, 2009. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
- White, Paul. Japan prep star may bypass domestic draft to come to MLB, USA Today. Published September 30, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
- Reeves, Jim. Texas Rangers' Washington has wish list for 2010, Dallas Morning News. Published September 30, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
- Dittmeier, Bobbie. Top amateur to choose Japan or MLB, Major League Baseball. Published September 29, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
- Biggs, Stuart. Japan Teen’s 94-mph Fastball May Spur U.S. Migration, Bloomberg. Published August 21, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
- Rangers, Dodgers Eyeing Yusei Kikuchi, CBS Sports. Published May 24, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
- Big league teams wooing Japanese teen pitcher Kikuchi, CBS Sports. Published October 15, 2009. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
- Baggarly, Andrew. Sabean/Bochy still without contracts, Lansford doesn’t expect to be invited back, note on Kikuchi, etc, San Jose Mercury News. Published October 12, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
- Kikuchi War Begins, The Times of India. Published October 6, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
- Baseball: Kikuchi gets professional career off the ground, Breitbart.com (Associated Press). Published October 5, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
- Baseball notebook: Sept. 30, Knoxville News Sentinel. Published September 29, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
- Drennen, Andrew. Japanese Prep Star to MLB, ESPN. Published September 29, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
- Scouts seek talks with Kikuchi, Japan Times. Published October 10, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
- Japanese clubs seek direct talks with highly touted Kikuchi, Japan Today. Published October 9, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
- High school star Kikuchi gives scouts a taste of his skills, Japan Times. Published September 29, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
- Horie, Masatsugu. Japan School Pitcher Kikuchi Prefers U.S., Sports Nippon Says, Bloomberg. Published September 8, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
- Smith, Cameron. Japanese High Schooler Could Start a Revolution, Washington Post. Published August 24, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
- Hoynes, Paul. Cleveland Indians among MLB teams intrigued by Japanese teen hurler Kikuchi, The Plain Dealer. Published October 18, 2009. Retrieved October 19, 2009.
- Harding, Thomas. High schooler Kikuchi to remain in Japan, Major League Baseball. Published October 25, 2009. Retrieved October 25, 2009.
- Yusei Kikuchi at JapaneseBallPlayers.com