2023 MLB Fantasy: Should Blue Jays LHP Yusei Kikuchi on the Radar?

Blue Jays Yusei Kikuchi struggled mightily in his first campaign north of the border. However, he’s garnering some newfound attention this spring thanks to a very impressive couple of outings. But, is Kikuchi worth the hassle in fantasy this season? Kikuchi should be readily obtainable in fantasy leagues, and for good reason.

Related: Cardinals Prospect Jordan Walker is Making a Convincing Case to Start 2023 in the Majors

A Look at Kikuchi

The Blue Jays signed LHP Yusei Kikuchi last March to provide stability to the back-end of the rotation. That, however, didn’t occur.

The 2022 season was quite the oddball for Kikuchi, from a statistical standpoint. Over 100.2 IP, Kikuchi owned the 10th-highest WHIP (1.50) and ERA figures (5.19), and the worst BB/9 (5.2) rate among pitchers who threw at least 100 innings last year. It’s hard to say that the left-hander was unlucky in any way shape or form, as he yielded 23 home runs and owned a .293 BABIP. In 20 starts, Kikuchi threw at least five or more innings on just seven occasions.

On the other hand, though, Kikuchi did make use of his stuff to get plenty of whiffs and strikeouts. The Blue Jays lefty’s 31.0% Whiff% rate was well above the league average. And, Kikuchi posted the 10th-best K/9 (11.1) rate in baseball, putting his name among the likes of Dylan Cease, Nick Lodolo, and Brandon Woodruff

It was a tough season, overall, for the left-hander in his first season in Toronto. But, things have gotten off to the right start for him this spring. Entering Grapefruit League play on March 8, Kikuchi has thrown seven scoreless innings and struck out nine. The 31-year-old lefty has walked three, but has done quite well working his slider and fastball in game action. But, can Kikuchi, who owns a career 5.02 ERA over four season, get it done in 2023?

2023 Fantasy Outlook

After a wild 2022 campaign, Kikuchi is one of the big wild cards in baseball for this season. Sure, the potential is high. Kikuchi can make great use of a powerful slider, along with a pretty decent changeup that meshes well with his fastball. On the other hand, though, the 31-year-old has never been a phenomenal fantasy option. While he does accrue a lot of strikeouts, command issues have led to poor batted ball metrics, below-average walk rates, and poor ERA figures.

Kikuchi’s 12.6% BB% remains an outlier in his four career, but it’s still very risky to target someone him outside of the final round in drafts — if at all. It’s hard to recommend Kikuchi, given his prior track record and command problems. But with his strikeout and win potential, he could provide value in certain circumstances as a spot starter.

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