Meet the next star Japanese pitcher who will be jumping to MLB

Yahoo Sports
Yusei Kikuchi is the next Japanese pitcher that will be courted by MLB teams. (AP)
Yusei Kikuchi is the next Japanese pitcher that will be courted by MLB teams. (AP)

He’s not Shohei Ohtani, but who really is? Still, as baseball transitions into Hot Stove season, you should learn the name Yusei Kikuchi, because he’s the next Japanese pitching star that MLB teams will be after.

Kikuchi, 27, is one step closer now, after reports Monday that his Nippon Professional Baseball team, the Seibu Lions, have agreed to post him — which essentially means they’re putting him up for sale to an MLB team. If the Lions hadn’t posted him, Kikuchi would have to wait one more season to be an international free agent.

Kikuchi should draw plenty of attention. He’s a hard-throwing lefty with a 73-46 career record in Japan and a 2.77 ERA. In the 2018 season with the Lions, he went 14-4 with a 3.08 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 163 2/3 innings. His strongest year was 2017, in which he averaged 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings with a 1.97 ERA and a 16-6 record. He averages 92-94 mph on his fastball, but can get as high as 96.

Here are some highlights in video form:

According to Jon Heyman of Fancred, the Dodgers, Padres and Phillies are among the teams that could be interested in Kikuchi. Patrick Corbin and Dallas Kuechel top the list of free-agent lefty pitchers available. After that, it’s vets such as CC Sabathia and Gio Gonzalez, so there could be plenty of need for Kikuchi.

He’s chosen to be represented by super agent Scott Boras, who will be guiding Kikuchi through a posting process that has changed. Instead of MLB teams paying a maximum $20 million posting fee (like in recent years) or putting in silent bids for posting fees (the older system), Kikuchi’s old team will now get a posting fee that’s determined by his contract.

Here’s how the new system works: The team posting the player gets 20 percent of the first $25 million of an MLB contract, then 17.5 percent of the next $25 million and 15 percent of any amount over $50 million. A practical example: If a player signs for $100 million, his old team gets roughly $16.9 million.

Once Kikuchi is officially posted by the Lions, the negotiating window is open for 30 days.

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Mike Oz is a writer at Yahoo Sports. Contact him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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