To no one surprise the Mets are considered strong suitors for the service of left hander Yusei Kikuchi. According to Pat Ragazzo the Mets are expected to heavily pursuit the 30 year old after the lockout is over.
Kikuchi is coming of a season with two different halfs. The first half he was an all start pitching to a 3.48 ERA in the first half with a 1.08 WHIP. The second half was the complete opposite with a 5.98 ERA and 1.70 WHIP.
His overall numbers in his MLB Career won’t wow you. He has pitched to a 4.97 ERA (4.41 in 2021) with a 2.4 WAR. However, Kikuchi is seen as a guy with high upside because of his tremendous stuff.
His main plus is his above average swing and miss stuff. He is in the 63th percentile in Whiff%, 60th percentile in chase rate and 57th percentile in K%. All improvement from his debut season in 2019.
If you look at Kikuchi his run value per pitch. He has success with his cutter (-4) and his change-up (-3). His 4 seamer is league average at 0 but his slider is plus 4. He still throws his slider 18.9% of the time and his change-up just 10.5%. If he switches those two pitches up, he could find more success.
His change-up is by far his most successful pitch. In 2021 hitters had an expected slash line of .175/.194/.256 with a 39.4% Whiff rate. Main reason for his increased success with that pitch is getting more vertical drop. His vertical drop went from 1.5 inches below average in 2019, to 0.1 inches above average in 2020, followed by 1.3 above average in 2021. Conclusion: Throw that pitch more Yusei!
If you watch Kikuchi pitch you see a lot of vertical drop in his pitches. His slider has the most success getting 3.4 inches above average (good for 59th amongst all pitchers). His horizontal movement is all way below average besides his 4 seamer that he increased from 0.9 inches below to 2.2 inches above average.
Conclusion, you see a ton of downward action on Kikuchi his pitches. If he is able to use his cutter, 4 seamer and change-up more and limit his slider, he could perform better. The stuff is there with a mid to high 90’s FB from the left side, but he has to get is all together a full year. After a promising 60 game season in 2020, followed by a strong first half, maybe he got out of Gass during the second half of 2021?
I definitely see potential in Kikuchi. He would provide another arm for our rotation and move Peterson/Megill to possible depth arms. The Mets lacked starting pitching depth last year so we know that’s desperately needed. To me with the Mets offense a rotation of deGrom, Scherzer, Walker, Kikuchi and Carrasco (hopefully returns to form), should be strong to compete.
Photo Credit: MLB trade Rumors