Kikuchi was another success story on the mound in 2023. His numbers in 2022 were awful with a ghastly 5.19 ERA and 5.2 BB/9 as he shuttled between the rotation and bullpen. Everyone around the Blue Jays could see the talent, but the hard part was tapping into it and getting Yusei to put it all together.
When the Blue Jays acquired him in a trade with Seattle, they knew they were making a gamble that he would be the consistent pre-2021 All Star break version of himself. That pitcher was downright spectacular, but in typical Kikuchi fashion it all unraveled in the second half of that season.
In 2023 all of his main statistics took a turn for the better. The question is can he do that over 30+ starts again? There is good news on that front as he outperformed his FIP, 4.12 vs xFIP 3.77. Most significant? A pitcher that seemed to walk so many batters in 2022 made big strides in turning the ship around. Watching a Kikuchi inning in which he was laboring was painful and fans saw less of that in 2023. He tied a career low in BB% (6.9) and HardHit% (42.5). The walk rate was pushing twelve in the prior year.
Bottom line: It can go either way with Kikuchi. He seems to possess the most variability among any member on the staff and you don’t know which way it will go. While his injury history doesn’t have anything terribly concerning, he is prone to breakdowns at times, including if he doesn’t get enough sleep!
Kikuchi is only signed through 2024, so it will be imperative for him to maximize his performance in order to take advantage of his value.