The most disappointing player last year may have been Yusei Kikuchi. The prized international free agent last winter, Kikuchi came over with a lot of buzz and while he showed promise in stretches, he was underwhelming in his rookie season.
There were a number of off-the-field factors that help explain the rough season, including but not limited to, living in a new country, playing in a new league, the loss of his father, and the birth of his son. But what we did see from Kikuchi was some pretty good stuff and the willingness to try new things.
Now, with a year of experience in the US and MLB, Kikuchi will look to improve his 2019 numbers. Like Sheffield, Kikuchi will need to throw the changeup more but both breaking balls show real promise.
One thing we will be able to see instantly is what Kikuchi will do with his windup. Last season, we saw him use hesitation at the top of his delivery for most of the season. But we also saw him ditch it towards the end of the season, including during the best start of his career against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The willingness to ditch the hesitation shows a willingness to make drastic changes to his game, which is an important skill for a young pitcher.
With a more normal off-season with fewer distractions, Kikuchi could make a big jump for the Mariners in 2020. Watching how he attacks hitters and reworks his delivery will be a major storyline to watch this spring training.
The fun thing about a list like this is that there is no shortage of choices. So whoever you think got snubbed, I agree, we probably did. The Mariners are going to be fun to watch this year. They may not be a good team, but they sure as hell are going to be fun to watch.