Jon Heyman: Meet Yusei Kikuchi, the next big import from Japan

Yusei Kikuchi, a lefty with pedigree, could be the next big player to come from Japan. The Dodgers, Padres, Royals, Phillies and many other teams have their eye on him this year.

Kikucki, 27, is a veteran with the Seibu Lions who absolutely dominated in 2017, pitching to a 1.97 ERA. But while his ERA is up more than a run, to 3.07, this year, and his stuff is a bit down, he is admired for his ability to pitch with above average velocity for a lefty.

Kikuchi is expected to make the leap to the majors next year, and he should draw extensive interest. Most teams have been to Japan to see him this year.

"He didn't throw great the last time — his pitches were elevated — but he's a good lefty who throws at 92-93 mph with a cutter, a slider and good straight change," one scout said. "He's a solid three (third starter), maybe better than that."

That scout sounded hopeful his team could win the bidding. But there is expected to be plenty of competition for him from teams across the majors. He may not bring quite the hype or promise of Shohei Ohtani, but then again, no one besides perhaps Daisuke Matsuzaka has before, either. 

Jon Heyman is Fancred's baseball insider. He publishes his weekly Inside Baseball column each Thursday on the App and You can download the App here and interact with Jon by following him right here.