Baseball / MLB

Mariners southpaw Yusei Kikuchi touted as one of top newcomers to majors

Kyodo

New Seattle Mariners pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, who debuts in Major League Baseball this year after eight seasons with the Seibu Lions, has been selected by Forbes on its list of MLB’s five most anticipated newcomers for 2019.

The 27-year-old distinguished himself as Japan’s top left-handed starter during his run in NPB earning a career 73-46 record with a 2.77 ERA. This past season, he went 14-4 and struck out 153 batters over 163-2/3 innings to help Seibu finish with the best record in the Pacific League.

In listing him alongside top prospects like infielder Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and pitcher Forrest Whitley who have excelled in U.S. farm systems, Forbes praised Kikuchi’s lively fastball and ability to mix it up with curves, sliders and changeups.

The lefty was also selected by USA Today in a list published Wednesday of MLB players to know for the 2019 season, and picked by MLB.com earlier in the month — along with compatriot Yu Darvish — as a possible candidate to win a Cy Young Award this year.

After the Lions posted him to MLB last December, Kikuchi signed with the Mariners in January on a three-year guaranteed contract at $43 million.