Hanamaki Higashi Loses, Time for Kikuchi to Decide
Yusei Kikuchi’s Hanamaki Higashi has lost in the Kokutai Tournament, so now it’s time for the coveted young lefty to make what is certainly the biggest decision of his life to this point. Kikuchi has kind of gone back and forth with his decision, and the media has collectively interpreted his words however they’ve wanted to, so we don’t really have any more of an idea what he wants to do they we did a month ago. To me he seems like a normal 18 year-old kid who isn’t quite sure what he wants to do. I’m glad I wasn’t an international media subject when I was 18.
Having said all that, Kikuchi’s manager Hiroshi Sasaki was quoted in Nikkan Sports the other day as saying “I think he’ll make Japan his main choice and listen on the Majors”. Per the above paragraph, I’ll take that with a grain of salt, but there has been some talk of Kikuchi declaring eligible for the NPB draft and still negotiating with MLB teams. I have to think that MLB teams would back off if he gets drafted.
It’s been widely reported in the Japanese media that over 10 MLB teams have watched Kikuchi. I’ve actually kind of lost track of all of them, but the Texas Rangers seem to be among the most interested.The Rangers have been scouting Kikuchi since the spring, and had Asia Pacific scout Jim Colborn present at the Kokutai to watch him. Sponichi quotes Colborn as saying, “this last tournament is ending, and I would definitely liked to ask Sasaki if I could meet with him. For that, we can prepare an offer. Team president Nolan Ryan is of course watching video of him. He also wants Kikuchi to become a member of the Rangers” (translation of a translation). Remember that Texas also had the top dollar offer for Junichi Tazawa last year.
Aside from that, the newest interested party I’ve seen that hasn’t cropped up in the US media yet is the Astros. Sponichi again quotes Ed Wade: “I hear he’s 50/50 on coming to the Majors. If it turns out that he wants to come to the majors, we’d look into acquiring him.”