Lost password?

Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!


Receive free daily analysis


Already have an account? Log In


Forgot Password


Articles & Tools
Import Your Leagues
Daily Stats & Leaders
All Pitcher Matchups
Compare Any Players
Pickups & Streamers
Rookies & Call-Ups
News and Alerts

Yusei Kikuchi to the Mariners - Fantasy Outlook

The Mariners rang in the new year with yet another move, as news broke in the final hours of 2018 that Nippon Professional Baseball pitcher Yusei Kikuchi had signed a four-year deal with Seattle.

Kikuchi will be joining the Mariners after a "down" season in which he only went 14-4 with a 3.08 ERA — his highest since 2014 — a 1.033 WHIP and an 8.4 K/9. That performance came on the heels of a career-year in 2017, where he finished with a 16-6 record, 1.97 ERA, a career-low 0.911 WHIP and a career-high 10.4 K/9. As always with players moving from NPB to MLB, the biggest question is how will their numbers and skills translate from one league to the other? Will Kikuchi's first season in America look more like Shohei Ohtani's debut or Kei Igawa's?

There's a lot of information to unpack here with Kikuchi's value in 2019 and beyond, so let's dive in.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


Yusei Goodbye, I Say Hello

First, let's take a look at his career numbers in Japan. Kikuchi has been fairly consistent over the last four seasons now, recording at least 130 innings and a 20 percent strikeout rate each year. On top of that, Kikuchi has finished in the top-30 in the Japan Pacific League in ERA and K/9 in each of the last four years and finished in the top 10 in WHIP in two of the four seasons.

2015 133 9-10 2.84 1.143 10.1 22.5
2016 143 12-7 2.58 1.287 11.3 21.3
2017 187.2 16-6 1.97 0.911 6.7 29.5
2018 163.2 14-4 3.08 1.033 6.9 23.3

It appears 2017 might be somewhat of an outlier for Kikuchi, but even if it is he still has very solid numbers that have helped make him one of better pitchers in Japan. That being said, how well will these numbers translate to MLB?


Japan to the U.S. — Starters making the jump

To get an idea of what to expect from Kikuchi in 2019, let's take a look at some other starters that have made the switch in recent years. Below are the stat lines for the six most recent starters to come from Japan in the year before their MLB debut:

Shohei Ohtani* 140 10-4 1.86 0.957 8.2 31.8
Kenta Maeda 206.1 15-8 2.09 1.013 5.0 21.3
Masahiro Tanaka 212 24-0 1.27 0.943 3.9 22.2
Tsuyoshi Wada 184.2 16-5 1.51 1.002 5.5 23.1
Yu Darvish 232 18-6 1.44 0.828 4.1 31.1
Hisashi Iwakuma 119 6-7 2.42 1.050 4.0 19.1

*Ohtani's numbers are from his last full season in NPB (2016)


And then here are their numbers from their debut seasons:

Name Age in Debut IP W-L ERA WHIP BB% K%
Shohei Ohtani* 23 51.2 4-2 3.31 1.161 10.4 29.9
Kenta Maeda 28 175.2 16-11 3.48 1.139 7.0 25.0
Masahiro Tanaka 25 136.1 13-5 2.77 1.056 3.9 26.0
Tsuyoshi Wada 33 69.1 4-4 3.25 1.240 6.6 19.7
Yu Darvish 25 191.1 16-9 3.90 1.280 10.9 27.1
Hisashi Iwakuma 31 125.1 9-5 3.16 1.277 8.3 19.5

A couple of quick takeaways from these numbers are that each of these six pitchers saw both their ERA and WHIP increase upon their arrival in America, with Tanaka the only one who did not see an increase in his walk rate. The strikeout rates appeared to be more or less the same, and five of the pitchers (Ohtani excluded) saw an average drop of about 52 innings from their last season in Japan to their first season in MLB.


How will Kikuchi compare?

What can we take from this and apply toward Kikuchi? For starters, if he follows the trend of increasing ERA and WHIP, Kikuchi could be in for a rough rookie season. Compared to the other pitchers in the chart above, Kikuchi is the only pitcher to post an ERA over 3.00 in the year before his MLB debut, and only Iwakuma posted a higher WHIP than Kikuchi. On top of that, each pitcher on the list saw an increase of 0.5 to 0.8 to their HR/9 rate, and Kikuchi's 0.9 HR/9 in 2018 is the highest rate out of this group.

So for Kikuchi's value in redraft leagues, it appears the cards may be stacked against him. With an anticipated drop in innings, look for Kikuchi to make about 23 to 25 starts roughly, with an ERA somewhere in the range from 3.80 to 4.10 and about 130 strikeouts. A good comparison for Kikuchi in 2019 would probably have to be Tyler Skaggs' 2018 performance: 24 starts, 4.02 ERA, 129 strikeouts and a 9.3 K/9.

Skaggs currently has an ADP of about 260, while Kikuchi has an ADP of 194. That might be a little too high for Kikuchi — especially given his new home in the AL West — and 260 is probably too long to wait on him. Owners will probably be able to get the best value if they can target him around the 220 ADP range.


What to expect in 2020 and beyond?

With the exceptions of Darvish and Iwakuma, all of these pitchers saw a dip in their stats in their sophomore season. After that, however, they've all managed to pitch closer to their rookie season numbers and have more or less become fairly consistent in their performances from season to season. Kikuchi will almost certainly have some growing pains in his first two years in MLB, but if he can make it through those first couple seasons then he has a good chance at being an above average fantasy starter. Long-term, he may be a liability in ERA but he should be able to make up for it in strikeouts.

In dynasty drafts, Kikuchi has to be an early-round draft pick, if not a first-rounder. He is guaranteed to play at the Major League level, which is more than can be said for some minor leaguers that will be taken in drafts this year. One potential hit to his dynasty value is his age, as he will turn 28 shortly before the All-Star break. He may not be a good pick for a dynasty team looking to retool for a championship run in about five years, but for a team looking to compete within the next three years, Kikuchi has to be near the top of your draft board.

More Fantasy Baseball Analysis


Articles & Tools
Import Your Leagues
Daily Stats & Leaders
All Pitcher Matchups
Compare Any Players
Pickups & Streamers
Rookies & Call-Ups
News and Alerts


Kaapo Kahkonen2 hours ago

Makes 44 Saves In Victory
Mikael Granlund2 hours ago

Totals Season-High Three Points
Anthony Duclair2 hours ago

Scores Two Goals In Victory
NJ3 hours ago

Simon Nemec Collects Two Points In NHL Debut
Ausar Thompson4 hours ago

Probable Against Cleveland
Bojan Bogdanovic4 hours ago

Likely To Return On Saturday
Caris LeVert4 hours ago

Sitting Out Against Detroit
Brandon Miller4 hours ago

Battling An Ankle Issue
Anthony Edwards4 hours ago

Not Expected To Play On Saturday
Andrew Wiggins7 hours ago

Questionable For Rematch With The Clippers
Trey Lyles7 hours ago

Won't Play Versus Denver
Keegan Murray7 hours ago

Might Return On Saturday
New York Mets8 hours ago

Yoshinobu Yamamoto Is Where Mets' Focus Lies
Cleveland Browns8 hours ago

Myles Garrett Cleared For Week 13, Denzel Ward Ruled Out
Ezekiel Elliott9 hours ago

Questionable For Week 13
Bailey Zappe9 hours ago

To Start In Week 13
Demario Douglas9 hours ago

Won't Play In Week 13
Travis Etienne Jr.9 hours ago

Remains Limited On Friday
Tee Higgins9 hours ago

A Full Participant On Friday
Dalton Schultz10 hours ago

Won't Play In Week 13
Noah Brown10 hours ago

Tank Dell, Noah Brown Questionable For Week 13
Dorian Thompson-Robinson10 hours ago

Won't Play Sunday, Joe Flacco To Start
Keenan Allen11 hours ago

Questionable For Week 13
Dallas Goedert11 hours ago

Doubtful To Play In Week 13
Treylon Burks11 hours ago

Questionable To Face Colts
DeMar DeRozan12 hours ago

Uncertain To Play Against Pelicans On Saturday
Pat Connaughton12 hours ago

Ruled Out On Saturday
Keegan Murray12 hours ago

Practices On Friday
Chris Olave12 hours ago

Still In Concussion Protocol But Not Ruled Out
Doug McDermott12 hours ago

Will Not Play Against Pelicans
Luka Doncic12 hours ago

Ruled Out On Friday Due To Personal Reasons
Joel Embiid12 hours ago

Will Be True Game-Time Decision On Friday
Devin Booker12 hours ago

Will Sit Out Against Nuggets On Friday
Victor Wembanyama12 hours ago

Will Be Sidelined On Friday
Trey McBride12 hours ago

Iffy For Week 13 Action
Marquise Brown12 hours ago

Officially Questionable Against Steelers
Julius Randle12 hours ago

Tagged As Questionable On Friday
Dalvin Cook12 hours ago

Breece Hall, Dalvin Cook Questionable For Week 13
Treylon Burks13 hours ago

Cleared To Play In Week 13
Aaron Jones13 hours ago

Ruled Out For Week 13
Jerick McKinnon13 hours ago

Chiefs Expect Jerick McKinnon, Kadarius Toney To Play In Week 13
Dougie Hamilton14 hours ago

Simon Nemec Called Up To Devils Friday, Dougie Hamilton Placed On IR
Zach Charbonnet14 hours ago

Dealing With Swelling In Knee
Adin Hill14 hours ago

Leaves Thursday's Contest Early As Precaution
Timo Meier14 hours ago

Close To Returning, Could Play Friday
Jonathan Taylor14 hours ago

Officially Ruled Out
Sam Montembeault14 hours ago

Signs Three-Year Extension With Canadiens
Nikita Zadorov14 hours ago

Traded To Vancouver
Beneil Dariush16 hours ago

Arman Tsarukyan A Favorite Over Beneil Dariush At UFC Austin
Jack Eichel16 hours ago

Steers Vegas Back On Track
Beneil Dariush16 hours ago

Has A Dangerous Task In Front Of Him
Brayden Schenn16 hours ago

Leads Blues To Victory Thursday
Bobby Green17 hours ago

Looking For Third Win In A Row
Noah Dobson17 hours ago

Grabs Three Assists In Thursday's Win
Jalin Turner17 hours ago

A Favorite At UFC Austin
Tyrese Haliburton17 hours ago

Notches Another Big-Time Performance
Jack Hughes17 hours ago

Adds Three More Points To His Tally
Dustin Stoltzfus17 hours ago

In Dire Need Of Victory
Trae Young17 hours ago

Posts A 45-Point Double-Double
Tom Wilson17 hours ago

Celebrates First Career Hat Trick
Jalen Brunson17 hours ago

Drops 42 Points In Win Over Pistons
Punahele Soriano17 hours ago

Looking To Return To Win Column
Jonathan Isaac17 hours ago

Tagged As Questionable On Friday
Tristan Jarry17 hours ago

Caps Off Winning Performance With Historic Goal
Mitchell Marner1 day ago

Scores Hat Trick In Victory
Alex Lyon1 day ago

Earns Third Consecutive Victory
Jeremy Swayman1 day ago

Posts Shutout Against Sharks
Matt McLain1 day ago

Fully Healed
Shohei Ohtani1 day ago

Wins Most Outstanding Designated Hitter Award
Zach Hyman1 day ago

Ready To Return On Thursday
Juuso Valimaki1 day ago

Back For Coyotes On Thursday
Ilya Mikheyev1 day ago

Good To Go Thursday
Dylan Cease2 days ago

Cardinals Interested In Dylan Cease
Joaquim Silva2 days ago

Looking To Return To The Win Column
Clay Guida2 days ago

Set For 36th UFC Fight
Kelvin Gastelum2 days ago

Returns To Welterweight
Tyler Glasnow2 days ago

Cubs Have Held Trade Talks On Tyler Glasnow
Sean Brady2 days ago

Looking To Rebound After First Career Loss
Deiveson Figueiredo2 days ago

Moving Up To Bantamweight
Rob Font2 days ago

Set For Third Fight Of 2023
Nick Martinez2 days ago

Agrees To Two-Year Deal With Reds
Jackson Chourio2 days ago

Brewers Expected To Complete Record-Breaking Deal
Joey Wendle2 days ago

Agrees With Mets
Devin Williams2 days ago

Wins NL Reliever Of The Year Award
FĂ©lix Bautista2 days ago

Felix Bautista Named AL Reliever Of The Year
Luis Severino2 days ago

Mets, Luis Severino Finalizing One-Year Deal
Shohei Ohtani2 days ago

Expected To Sign Before End Of Winter Meetings
Dylan Cease2 days ago

Trade Talks For Dylan Cease Have Intensified
Randy Arozarena3 days ago

Being Shopped By Rays
Bo Bichette3 days ago

Likely Staying Put
Emilio Pagán3 days ago

Emilio Pagan Agrees To Two-Year Pact With Reds
Dylan Cease3 days ago

Dodgers "Among Most Aggressive" Teams For Dylan Cease
Shohei Ohtani3 days ago

Yoshinobu Yamamoto "Above All Other Options" For Giants
Juan Soto3 days ago

"Almost Certain To Be Traded"
Cody Bellinger3 days ago

Earns NL Comeback Player Of The Year Award
Liam Hendriks3 days ago

Earns AL Comeback Player Of The Year Award