When Yusei Kikuchi was posted in early December, he had only a month to sign with a team. For this reason, his signing decision was going to fall over the holidays and Seattle broke the news right before the end of the year. Because of the unique timing, he didn’t get a ton of press, but owners should be aware that he’s a decent starter and not to be ignored on draft day.
I’m not going to regurgitate all of Jeff’s analysis and anyone interested in a deep dive can go read them, especially the first one when he breaks down Kikuchi’s pitches and injury history. What I will steal are a couple of his conclusions on player comps.
With his low-90s fastball, reliable slider, and slow curve, he pitches in a style similar to Patrick Corbin.
Handedness aside, Kikuchi has, in general, pitched like Maeda and Mikolas, in their own final NPB seasons. Kikuchi’s repertoire is like a left-handed version of Maeda’s, and Kikuchi’s bread-and-butter seems to be generating chase swings with his slider. I wouldn’t say that Kikuchi can quite compare to Mikolas’ command, but he’s a little better at picking up whiffs, and he knows how to pitch to the zone. Mikolas just ran an FIP- of 81, and an xFIP- of 90, over 200.2 innings. Maeda, over 435.1 big-league innings, has an FIP- of 88, and an xFIP- to match.
Besides Jeff’s comps to Corbin, Maeda, and Mikolas, I was able to squeeze Kikuchi’s MLE (major league equivalents) and projections out of the great Dan Szymborski.
First the MLE’s.
For reference, his 2017 season worked out to 10.0 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, and 1.2 HR/9 and his 2018 season at 7.9 K/9, 3.3 K/9, and 1.1 HR/9. The 2017 numbers look quite a bit better, but owners should pay for the 2018 numbers and hope for 2017.
The ADP almost fits in with the MLE comps. Now, moving onto the projections. Here they are:
OK. Not great. Going through the Steamer projections, here are four pitchers with similar projections.
I like the Skaggs comp, but Skaggs is going over 60 picks later than the shiny new toy. I’ll take the four-round discount.
Overall, Kikuchi’s talent makes him a must-own in all formats. With Mikolas’s success last season, Kikuchi’s ADP may start improving as owners make the comparison. It’s a worthwhile comp as Mikolas is projected for a similar ERA (4.04) with fewer strikeouts (7.3 K/9) and walks (1.7 BB/9). Mikolas’s current ADP sits at 86th overall and Kikuchi may start moving into the 150 range.
Pulling all the data points together, Kikuchi’s 185 ADP is probably near his value. The problem becomes how much will he move up now that he has a team and the Mikolas comps keep pouring in. Maybe I’d pull the trigger at pick 160 but probably not sooner. I’d rather dig through the Blob™ and find similar pitchers who are going several rounds later.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.