LA Angels News

Could the LA Angels Land Another Japanese Star?

By Vincent Page
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 17: Yusei Kikuchi pitcher for the Aces in action during the Australian Baseball League match between the Melbourne Aces and the Brisbane Bandits at Melbourne Showgrounds on November 17, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 17: Yusei Kikuchi pitcher for the Aces in action during the Australian Baseball League match between the Melbourne Aces and the Brisbane Bandits at Melbourne Showgrounds on November 17, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images) /
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Last offseason, most of the MLB world was shocked when the LA Angels landed two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani. Now, Yusei Kikuchi will be posted by his Japanese team, and the Angels could be a preferred landing spot.

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The LA Angels main reason for landing Shohei Ohtani nearly one year ago was general manager Billy Eppler and his years-long recruitment of the Japanese star. Now, Ohtani’s former teammate will be available for bidding by MLB teams, and a Ohtani-Kikuchi reuniting is very possible.

While Yusei Kikuchi is not the two-way stud Ohtani is, he has built quite the resume for himself. The 27-year old eight seasons playing professional baseball in Japan, and his career numbers are staggering. He has a career 2.81 ERA and averages eight strikeouts per nine innings.

The scouting report for Kikuchi is overall very solid. His fastball is lively and ranges in the mid-90’s. All of his breaking pitches (a curveball, splitter, and slider) are all exceptional pitches that Kikuchi consistently uses for strikeouts. Unlike Ohtani and fellow Japanese stars Masahiro Tanaka and Yu Darvish, Kikuchi does not project to be an ace-level starter when he arrives in America.

Instead, Kikuchi is likely going to be a mid-rotation arm with #2 pitcher upside. While all of his pitches are above-average, he has struggled with walks throughout his career, and the jump from Japan to the MLB is very well-documented. Kikuchi has also suffered from injuries during his time in the Japanese Pacific League.

While the Angels have not been reported to be in on Kikuchi, they were not mentioned with Ohtani last year, as Eppler went under the radar in his pursuit.

Unlike Ohtani, Kikuchi will be treated as a free agent, which could result in a bidding war for the southpaw’s services. Per Jeff Fletcher of The Orange County Register (@JeffFletcherOCR), the Angels will have around $25 million to spend this offseason. With starting pitching being their biggest need, they may just be willing to set aside a large portion of that for Kikuchi.

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The Angels already have the best Japanese player in the world, and now could land the best pure pitcher to be posted in years in Yusei Kikuchi. He is arguably the most enticing left-handed pitcher on the market this offseason given his age and upside, and the Angels should be doing their due diligence on the potential stud.

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