The free-agent frenzy has kicked off over the past week since the institution of a new MLB collective bargaining agreement. Carlos Rodon and Yusei Kikuchi both found new homes at the start of free agency. How will their new teams affect their Fantasy value?
Rodon will head to arguably the best pitching environment in all of baseball. Kikuchi, on the other hand, will depart one of the more pitcher-friendly parks in the game to move north of the border.
Carlos Rodon, Yusei Kikuchi find new homes
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Rodon signs with San Francisco Giants (two years, $44 million)
Rodon finished in the top five of A.L. Cy Young voting last year. There is plenty of reason to believe he may have walked away with the award had he worked more than 132.2 innings. Over 24 starts for the division-winning White Sox, the first-time All-Star went 13-5 with a 2.37 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 34.6 K%. It was a long-awaited breakout.
The main issue for Rodon persists, as his 2021 workload was the third heaviest of his seven big-league seasons. Only once has he been able to reach as many as 140.0 IP. That was all the way back in 2016 (165.0). It was a shoulder issue that disrupted his season this past summer.
After five shutout innings against the Cubs on August 7 that included 11 strikeouts and just two hits allowed, Rodon would be shut down for nearly three weeks. After returning to the Sox rotation, he would go on to work only 25.2 innings over six starts (postseason included) the rest of the way. His highest pitch total in any of those outings was 86. The concern over his shoulder led the White Sox to go so far as to not even make Rodon a qualifying offer.
Following the work stoppage in MLB, the buzz around Rodon suggested that his medical reports are actually positive. That was apparently enough for the Giants to take the plunge and add the 29-year-old southpaw to an already promising pitching staff.
The injury risk with Rodon holds him back to the 20-30 range among SPs in preseason draft rankings. Though, he has clearly displayed Top-10 upside and will now be throwing roughly half his innings in a park that is incredibly friendly to pitchers.
Kikuchi signs with Toronto Blue Jays (three years, $36 million)
Following a stellar career in his native Japan, Kikuchi headed to The States as a 27-year-old in 2019 to join the Mariners. His overall numbers from the past three seasons are nothing to really write home about, but there have been some promising trends that proved attractive to the Blue Jays. Fantasy drafters should give them some attention as well.
|Swinging Strike %
Despite the progress, Kikuchi’s 2021 campaign was quite uneven. He earned a spot on the A.L. All-Star staff. posting a 3.48 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 25.0 K% across 98.1 innings in the first half. After the break, it was a different story.
In 13 second-half starts, Kikuchi limped to a 5.98 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, and 1.69 HR/9. He did mix in a few solid efforts in that stretch, but results were mostly poor. On a good note, the whiffs did remain, as Kikuchi recorded a 23.7 K% while racking up 65 across 58.2 innings. That is where fantasy owners are likely to gain the most benefit from him in the later rounds of mixed-league drafts.
Do not attempt to anchor a fantasy staff with Kikuchi. Even expecting him to be a reliable No. 3 SP could turn out to be quite problematic. His potential in strikeouts and wins with the Blue Jays offense does make Kikuchi a worthy selection to round things out on the pitching front.
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