Yusei Kikuchi

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Yusei Kikuchi
Kikuchi with the Saitama Seibu Lions in 2018
Toronto Blue Jays – No. 16
Born: (1991-06-17) June 17, 1991 (age 31)
Morioka, Iwate, Japan
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Professional debut
NPB: June 12, 2011, for the Saitama Seibu Lions
MLB: March 21, 2019, for the Seattle Mariners
NPB statistics
(through 2018 season)
Win–loss record73–46
Earned run average2.77
MLB statistics
(through 2022 season)
Win–loss record21–31
Earned run average5.02
Career highlights and awards

Yusei Kikuchi (菊池 雄星, Kikuchi Yūsei, Japanese pronunciation: [ki̥kɯtɕi jɯꜜːseː], born June 17, 1991) is a Japanese professional baseball pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for the Seattle Mariners in MLB and for the Saitama Seibu Lions of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).

Amateur career[edit]

As a high school pitcher, Kikuchi had a fastball that was clocked at 154 km/h (96 mph) in 2009.[1][2] 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.[3][4] The Texas Rangers were one of several teams interested in signing Kikuchi,[5][6] as well as the Boston Red Sox.[7] Japanese news service reports also identified scouts from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, New York Mets, Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants,[8] Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees watching Kikuchi in tournaments.[2] All 12 NPB teams were also reportedly interested in signing the pitcher.[7][9]

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.[10] He was expected to be named as a No. 1 draft pick by several Japanese clubs.[1][3][11][12] NPB had asked that Kikuchi not receive an offer from any major league clubs before Japan's draft,[13][14] in order to even the chances for Japanese teams, who are not allowed to make offers before the draft.[7] 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.[4][15] Kikuchi had reportedly expressed a preference to play in the United States and even visited in October.[16]

Kikuchi would have been the first Japanese high school player to bypass the domestic amateur draft to come to MLB.[3][17] By staying, players lock themselves into nine seasons before they're eligible for free agency.[4] 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.[2][12] 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.[7][18] He decided to stay in Japan and enter the draft instead of playing in the United States.[19]

Professional career[edit]

Saitama Seibu Lions[edit]

On November 20, 2009, 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.[20]

After the 2011 season, Seibu announced that Kikuchi would join the Melbourne Aces of the Australian Baseball League (ABL).[21]

In 2018, Kikuchi was selected for the 2018 NPB All-Star game [jp].[22]

On December 3, 2018, Seibu announced it was allowing Kikuchi to enter the posting system to play in Major League Baseball (MLB),[23] with the 30-day period starting a month later.[24]

Seattle Mariners[edit]

Kikuchi pitching for the Mariners with Shohei Ohtani on base

On January 2, 2019, Kikuchi signed a four-year contract with the Seattle Mariners.[25][26] Kikuchi made his MLB debut on March 21, 2019, going 4.2 innings while allowing two runs (one earned) and striking out three.[27] He is the first Japanese-born player to make his MLB debut in Japan.[28] Kikuchi struggled in his first season with Seattle, going 6–11 with an ERA of 5.46 in 32 starts. He struck out 116 in 161+23 innings. Kikuchi improved his performance in 2020, recording a 5.17 ERA and increasing his strikeout percentage from 16.1% to 24%.[29]

Kikuchi was selected for the American League's roster in the 2021 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.[30]

Toronto Blue Jays[edit]

On March 14, 2022, Kikuchi signed a three-year, $36 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.[31]

On September 30, 2022, a day after cinching a post-season berth, Kikuchi earned his first MLB save.

Playing style[edit]

Kikuchi is a 6-foot (1.8 m), 200-pound (91 kg) left-handed pitcher throwing from a three-quarters arm angle.[32] He features a fastball topping out at 99 miles per hour (159 km/h).[33] He mainly throws an above-average slider in addition to the fastball and also mixes in a curve and changeup.[34][35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kikuchi gets pro career off ground, Japan Times. Published October 6, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c White, Paul. Japan prep star may bypass domestic draft to come to MLB, USA Today. Published September 30, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c Dittmeier, Bobbie. Top amateur to choose Japan or MLB, Major League Baseball. Published September 29, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c Biggs, Stuart. Japan Teen’s 94-mph Fastball May Spur U.S. Migration, Bloomberg. Published August 21, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
  5. ^ Reeves, Jim. Texas Rangers' Washington has wish list for 2010, Dallas Morning News. Published September 30, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
  6. ^ Rangers, Dodgers Eyeing Yusei Kikuchi Archived July 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, CBS Sports. Published May 24, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
  7. ^ a b c d Big league teams wooing Japanese teen pitcher Kikuchi, CBS Sports. Published October 15, 2009. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Kikuchi War Begins[permanent dead link], The Times of India. Published October 6, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
  10. ^ Baseball: Kikuchi gets professional career off the ground] (Associated Press). Published October 5, 2009
  11. ^ Baseball notebook: Sept. 30, Knoxville News Sentinel. Published September 29, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
  12. ^ a b Drennen, Andrew. Japanese Prep Star to MLB[permanent dead link], ESPN. Published September 29, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
  13. ^ Scouts seek talks with Kikuchi, Japan Times. Published October 10, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
  14. ^ Japanese clubs seek direct talks with highly touted Kikuchi[permanent dead link], Japan Today. Published October 9, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
  15. ^ High school star Kikuchi gives scouts a taste of his skills, Japan Times. Published September 29, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
  16. ^ Horie, Masatsugu. Japan School Pitcher Kikuchi Prefers U.S., Sports Nippon Says, Bloomberg. Published September 8, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
  17. ^ Smith, Cameron. Japanese High Schooler Could Start a Revolution, Washington Post. Published August 24, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
  18. ^ Hoynes, Paul. Cleveland Indians among MLB teams intrigued by Japanese teen hurler Kikuchi, The Plain Dealer. Published October 18, 2009. Retrieved October 19, 2009.
  19. ^ Harding, Thomas. High schooler Kikuchi to remain in Japan, Major League Baseball. Published October 25, 2009. Retrieved October 25, 2009.
  20. ^ Newman, Patrick. Kikuchi Signs With Seibu, NPB Tracker. Published November 20, 2009. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
  21. ^ "「2011–12 Australian Baseball League 」の参加メンバー". 埼玉西武ライオンズ オフィシャルサイト (in Japanese). November 1, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  22. ^ "マイナビオールスターゲーム2018 ファン投票結果". NPB.jp 日本野球機構 (in Japanese). June 26, 2018. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  23. ^ "菊池雄星投手のポスティングについて". 埼玉西武ライオンズ オフィシャルサイト (in Japanese). December 3, 2018. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  24. ^ Axisa, Mike (December 3, 2018). "Yusei Kikuchi posted for MLB teams: Everything you need to know about the Japanese lefty". CBSSports.com. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  25. ^ "Mariners sign left-handed pitcher Yusei Kikuchi to four-year contract". MLB.com. January 2, 2019. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  26. ^ "菊池雄星投手がMLB・シアトル・マリナーズと契約". 埼玉西武ライオンズ オフィシャルサイト (in Japanese). January 3, 2019. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  27. ^ "Mariners Box Score 3/21/2019". mlb.com. March 21, 2019. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  28. ^ "Kikuchi to debut in Japan". the japan times. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  29. ^ "Yusei Kikuchi took a massive leap forward in 2020". January 2021.
  30. ^ "How Yusei Kikuchi became the Mariners' best pitcher and earned a spot on the AL All-Star team". July 4, 2021.
  31. ^ Matheson, Keegan (March 14, 2022). "Blue Jays reach 3-year deal with lefty Kikuchi". MLB.com. Retrieved March 14, 2022.
  32. ^ "Baseball: Yusei Kikuchi well prepared for move to MLB". English.kyodonews.net. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  33. ^ "A week after cratering, Mariners complete sweep of Rangers to return to .500". May 30, 2021.
  34. ^ Japanese pitching star Yusei Kikuchi could have high ceiling in MLB | MLB | Sporting News
  35. ^ "Japanese LHP Kikuchi signs with Mariners". January 2019.

External links[edit]