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Top Japanese Prospect Mulling MLB Jump

JAPAN – Highly-touted Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi pitched in front of numerous American and Japanese scouts Monday at the National Sports Festival quarterfinals at Hard Off Eco Stadium in Niigata.

The 18-year-old Hanamaki Higashi High School student has indicated he might attempt to join the U.S. major leagues instead of signing with a Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) team.

The hard-throwing southpaw, facing Japan’s national prep champions, struck out the side in a short but strong outing.

“He was impressive. He has a strong, quick arm. Good balance and a strong bottom half,” Bryan Lambe, a special assistant to the general manager of the New York Mets, told Kyodo News.

Kikuchi, who is expected to decide his professional future in the coming days, might follow the path of Boston Red Sox rookie Junichi Tazawa. Last year, the right-hander became the first top Japanese amateur player to refuse to be included in Japan’s amateur draft in order to pursue a career overseas.

ASTROS INK SOUTH KOREAN INFIELDER

The Houston Astros have signed Korean infielder Chan Jong Moon to a minor league contract. The Choong Ahm High School (Seoul) graduate will report this weekend to the Astros’ Instructional League club in Kissimmee, Florida.

Moon, 18, joins Taiwanese right-hander Chia-Jen Lo as the second Pacific Rim player signed by Glen Barker, the Astros scout in Asia.

“His ceiling for growth and improvement is high,” said Barker who described Moon as a high-energy player with solid fundamentals. “I feel he will be a solid Major League player down the road.”

Lo has enjoyed success in his first full season in the Astros organization. The reliever made 42 relief appearances between High Class A (Lancaster) and Double-A (Corpus Christi) while posting a 2.10 ERA.

Photo courtesy of japanbaseballnews.com

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