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Kikuchi's Future

by Patrick Newman (Aug 25, 2009)

Koshien is over, and inevitably the media has turned the spotlight back to the injured Yusei Kikuchi, overshadowing the fantastic finale of the tournament.

Kikuchi has already commented on his future, but before we get to that, let's take a glimpse into the world of the Japanese media. Check out the contrast between these two headlines, both featured prominently on Yahoo! Japan Sports:

Sports Hochi: "Hanamaki Higashi's Yu Kikuchi Will First be a Star in Japan! "There Are Things Left to Do." (花巻東・菊池雄、まず日本の星になる!「やり残したものある」)

Sanspo: "A Japan-US Battle! Hanamaki Higashi's Kikuchi Wants to go to The Majors" (日米争奪戦!花巻東・菊池、メジャー行きたい)

These two publications have distilled out very different headlines from roughly the same content. Sports Hochi is owned by the Yomiuri media conglomerate, the same corporation that operates the Yomiuri Giants, one of the NPB teams that has been after Kikuchi's services. So they have a vested interest in a headline like that. Sanspo, on the other hand, is somewhat prone to sensationalism.

With that, let's look at what Kikuchi actually said.

As quoted in Hochi: "if possible, I feel like I want to go (to the Majors) soon. But to go right away is a big risk. I could also build a solid foundation in Japan. But it's something I'll consult with my manager and parents on and decide..."

Sanspo has the same statement, but followed by "I kind of think I'd like to become a poster boy for high school baseball. Tazawa-san's self-belief is amazing." Sanspo also adds, "I know that I've been regarded (by big league teams). I want to study the draft system. If I go to the US (now), it will be a problem when I come back to Japan. I want to study that area."

And the last quote I'll translate is this one from Hochi: "I finished high school baseball with an injury. It feels like I have unfinished business in in Japan."

Both articles agree that Kikuchi will decide what to do in about a week's time.

Meanwhile, Draft Reports compiled some data indicated that Kikuchi appears as a first-round pick candidate for every NPB team except the Giants, who remain locked in on Hisayoshi Chono. I'm not sure I buy that, Kikuchi is clearly a better prospect than Chono. Kikuchi has gotten attention from reportedly more than eight MLB teams, including the Cubs, Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, Braves, and Mets, with reports calling the Dodgers and the Mets the most interested.


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