Could Makita Signing Lead To Padres Adding Another Japanese Star?

TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 08: Pitcher Kazuhisa Makita
TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 08: Pitcher Kazuhisa Makita /

The San Diego Padres made waves when they signed Japanese relief pitcher Kazuhisa Makita to the a two-year deal. Makita is likely to work in middle relief and will solidify San Diego’s bullpen ahead of closer Brad Hand.

Makita also brings an interesting submarine pitching motion to the West Coast. Much like Brad Ziegler of the Marlins and Steve Chisek of the Cubs, Makita’s arm almost hits the ground before he throws his pitch. That motion leads to many ground ball outs and could lead to more strikeouts stateside.

Makita’s signing certainly excited Padres’ fans as the team now has a new, fun pitcher to watch. However the Japanese submariner could add much more to the franchise in coming years.

Looking forward to next offseason, another Japanese superstar will likely be coming stateside. While he likely isn’t going to draw Shohei Otani type hype, he has the talent to be one of the best pitchers in the MLB today.

Yusei Kikuchi has been pitching in the Japanese Pacific League since 2011 after a short stint in the Australian Baseball League. In seven seasons playing professional baseball, Kikuchi has appeared in 140 games, pitching to a 60-44 record with a 2.76 ERA and a 772/336 K/BB ratio.

Sung Min Kim of Sporting News wrote an excellent review of Kikuchi. In his piece he wrote:

"Kikuchi features a fastball that has been clocked as high as 98.2 mph, which is an NPB record for a left-handed pitcher. His money pitch, however, is a hard slider that falls off the table. Kikuchi also mixes in a curve and changeup. His delivery features an arm action in which he hides the ball well until the last moment. Hitters have a hard time picking up the release point and recognizing what’s coming."

There aren’t many starting pitchers in today’s MLB that can hit almost triple figures. Being a lefty it’s hard enough for most hitters to pick up the release point, add in a quirky delivery and Kikuchi may just be untouchable.

Kikuchi throws a nice four pitch mix that couples his electric fastball with a hard slider. He seems like a pitcher destined to be an Ace in the major leagues. Put him at the top of a rotation that already features guys like Dinelson Lamet and Mackenzie Gore and San Diego might have one of the better pitching staffs in the league.

Of course by now you’re probably wondering, what does Kikuchi’s amazing pitching arsenal have to do with Makita?

As Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune points out, both Makita and Kikuchi played for the Seibu Lions during their time in Japan.

Outside of just Makita, the Padres have former MLB pitchers Hideo Nomo and Takashi Saito in their front office. If Makita excels in San Diego and enjoys his time here, he can inform Kikuchi of why the Padres should be his destination. With a strong Japanese support system, it might be enough to get him to the Friars.

While that may sound like a dream scenario, there are two important negatives to remember about the Japanese star.

For one, he has battled shoulder injuries for much of his career. In 2010 he missed the entire year due to his shoulder. In 2013 he missed two months and in 2016 his season was cut short. San Diego needs to make sure they are set with his injury history before offering him a big deal.

The Padres need to make sure Kikuchi is actually posted as well. While Lin speculates it could happen, there is no word to if the Lions will actually follow through. However the Lions reportedly told him that if he posts double digit wins in 2017 and 2018 they will post him. Kikuchi earned 16 in 2017, meaning if he stays healthy in 2018 he’ll likely accomplish that feat.

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Although if he can stay healthy, Kikuchi is one of the best pitchers in the world and will be an amazing addition for whatever team lands him. He offers one of the fastest pitches from a starter and a slider that’ll likely buckle some knees. There’s a good chance that becomes one of the best pitchers in the MLB and a real CY Young candidate.

Makita could be key for the Padres as they try to land the ace. The two played together in Japan and likely know each other very well. If Makita enjoys San Diego during his first season, he will likely try to get his former teammate to join him.

Overall, Yusei Kikuchi is likely the next great Japanese superstar to come to the MLB. He would be an amazing add for San Diego and the ace of the rotation for years to come. Adding Makita was one thing, but adding a player of Kikuchi’s talent would be franchise changing.

Padres’ fans should be salivating at the idea of landing Yusei Kikuchi in 2019.

Next: The Padres Are Smart to Stack Up on Bullpen Talent