Yusei Kikuchi scouting report: What to know about likely Giants target

The Japan Times

Yusei Kikuchi scouting report: What to know about likely Giants target

Multiple teams reportedly are interested in Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, the most recent of which is the Giants, as noted by Henry Schulman of The San Francisco Chronicle.

Kikuchi was 74-48 with a 2.81 ERA across eight seasons in Japan. Sung Min Kim of The Athletic provided NBC Sports Bay Area with a scouting report on the 27-year-old.

"He's a lefty who throws 92-95 mph and has touched 98," Kim said. "His slider is a sure major league pitch, and he can get a lot of strikeouts. He also throws a change and curve."

Kim, who has seen Kikuchi pitch 15 to 20 times, also touched on Kikuchi's injury concerns, saying it's just that -- a concern. 

In a previous article he wrote for Sporting News, Kim mentioned that the states were extremely interested in him at one point. As a matter of fact, the Rangers recruited Derek Holland in 2009 in an effort to also recruit Kikuchi, who was 18 at the time. But he chose to stay in Japan and wanted to be drafted by an NPB team.

There was a concern, however -- well, a snafu if you will: A legality problem with Kikuchi's motion. 

During an August 2017 game, the umpires "deemed he was making an illegal double-kicking motion," which forced him to change his delivery mid-game. 

It appeared it didn't maim Kikuchi's career, but it was brought up to the point where there were worries he would have to expedite his debut to the majors.

To say a pitcher of his caliber is a huge want in baseball is an understatement. It doesn't matter how deep your rotation and bullpen is. But when it comes to Kikuchi's performance, the only thing that needs to be deep is the pockets of pursuing teams.

Will Smith thanks Giants fans, Bruce Bochy after signing with Braves


Will Smith thanks Giants fans, Bruce Bochy after signing with Braves

Will Smith spent the last three-and-a-half years with the Giants. He missed one of those seasons to Tommy John surgery, but certainly will never forget his time in San Francisco. 

Smith, 30, signed a three-year, $39 million contract on Thursday to go home and join the Braves. The veteran reliever expressed his gratitude to Giants fans with a message sent to NBC Sports Bay Area's Amy Gutierrez later that night. 

Smith went out of his way to thank the Giants, their fans, the training staff and former manager Bruce Bochy. 

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Talked to @white_willy13 about his time with the @sfgiants. He will be missed and I want to personally wish him all the best with the @braves. Here’s what he wanted to say to the fans, the team and the Giants organization: I’d like to thank the Giants for giving me the opportunity that they did back in 2016.. it was my first taste of the playoffs I’ve had in my career and it is something I’ll never forget. The Giants are a first class organization hands down and welcomed me and my family with the utmost respect. Without their training staff, coming back from TJ surgery would not have been possible and for that I am forever thankful. Furthermore, I can never express the gratitude I have for Boch. Playing for him was an absolute honor. To my teammates... thank you for having my back on and off the field. Thank you for thinking as highly of me as I do of you and honoring me with the Willie Mac award. Something I will forever have and take with me from my time with you guys. Thank you for all the good times. And to the fans thank you for the constant support and loyalty. I’ll never forget my time wearing the orange and black. #BeatLA

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San Francisco acquired Smith from the Brewers on Aug. 1, 2016, right before the MLB trade deadline. When healthy, he was Mr. Reliable for the Giants. 

[RELATED: How Smith signing with Braves affects the Giants' bullpen]

Smith made his first All-Star Game appearance this past season with San Francisco. He finished the year with a perfect 6-0 record, 2.76 ERA and had 34 saves. 

Over his two-and-a-half seasons on the Giants, Smith went 9-4 with a 2.70 ERA and saved 48 games.

MLB rumors: Giants have checked in with Marcell Ozuna representatives

MLB rumors: Giants have checked in with Marcell Ozuna representatives

The Giants finally gave fans a reason to be excited about their outfielders last season after years of disappointment.

They found a diamond in the rough with Mike Yastrzemski, and Kevin Pillar is expected back next year after knocking 21 homers and bringing defensive highlights every night. And yet, the outfield still has question marks. 

It's unclear this early in free agency if new general manager Scott Harris will explore adding a veteran bat to the mix. Nevertheless, the Giants reportedly have eyed one of the bigger names on the open market. 

MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported Wednesday night that the Giants "have at least checked in with the representatives" for free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna. This isn't the first time the Giants have been tied to Ozuna this offseason, either. 

Earlier this month, MLB Trade Rumors predicted Ozuna to sign a three-year, $45 million contract with San Francisco. His age -- he turned 29 years old two days ago -- and power (29 homers in 2019) make plenty of sense for the Giants to explore. 

[RELATED: How Smith signing with Braves affects the Giants' bullpen]

Ozuna was handed a qualifying offer from the Cardinals going into this offseason, and declined it on Thursday. Any team that signs Ozuna would lose a draft pick next June, but not their first-round pick. However, the Giants will gain a draft pick from the Braves signing Will Smith, and the same goes for any team that signs Madison Bumgarner

Since 2014, Ozuna has averaged 24 homers per season. He easily would be the Giants' biggest power threat right away, something San Francisco has lacked for years.