Kikuchi Rocks the Draft
Yusei Kikuchi’s impending decision is something that the baseball world in not only Japan, but also in the United States is keeping an eye on. Kikuchi is scheduled to meet with his high school coach on the 15th (JST) regarding his decision, and has hinted in the media that his final decision will come once the Niigata Kokutai wraps up at the end of the month.
Kikuchi has been going back and forth with his choice, and we’re reading in interviews that his decision between NPB and MLB still remains to be 50/50. However it’s not a secret that he eventually would like to challenge the MLB and the question is a matter of now or later. He stated in a television interview that his dream is to become a Major Leaguer, which is a big statement to make on public.
His recent comments directed to a baseball magazine were quoted in gossip rag Yukan Fuji, “there has not been a high school player who directly went to the MLB without going through the NPB, so there is a part of me that wants to be the pioneer.” He also states that if he waits to be a free agent when he is 27 years old after joining a NPB team, that might be a little too late.
Until he comes to a decision, Kikuchi will be the center of attention and many scouts and media should be at the Niigata Kokutai, where he is scheduled to pitch for the first time since sustaining back pain at the Koshien Tournament. Not only will be the baseball world keeping an eye on the decision, but the outcome will be crucial for media giant TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System) as well.
The 2009 draft will be open to public and televised live for the first time and teams participating in a lottery draw to obtain the future ace is supposed to be the biggest catch of the event. Losing the big fish of this years draft will not only hurt now, but TBS could take a hit for the future as the live draft broadcast is a three-year project. NPB losing an amateur prospect for two years in a row to the MLB might consider restructuring the draft and the return of kibouwaku (players agreeing to terms with teams before the draft) will be a possibility if that’s the case.
All we can do is wait and see what Kikuchi decides. We’ll keep you posted on NPB Tracker.