Ryosuke Kikuchi may not be an answer at second

HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 13: Infielder Ryosuke Kikuchi #4 of Japan throws to the first base as Infielder Carlos Santana #41 of the Philadelhia Phillies hits a grounder in the bottom of 6th inning during the game four between Japan and MLB All Stars at Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium Hiroshima on November 13, 2018 in Hiroshima, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 13: Infielder Ryosuke Kikuchi #4 of Japan throws to the first base as Infielder Carlos Santana #41 of the Philadelhia Phillies hits a grounder in the bottom of 6th inning during the game four between Japan and MLB All Stars at Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium Hiroshima on November 13, 2018 in Hiroshima, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images) /
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Defensive sensation Ryosuke Kikuchi is set to be posted by the Hiroshima Carp, but he may not be an answer at second base in the majors.

Heading into MLB free agency, there are plenty of options available for a team looking for a second baseman. As it currently stands, over 20 players who have spent time at second over the years are available, and that does not count possible trade targets such as Whit Merrifield. While a portion of those players are utility options, that does not change the fact that this is a difficult offseason to be a free agent second baseman.

Now, another name has been added to the mix. The Hiroshima Carp are set to post second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi, an exciting defensive second baseman. Kikuchi has been known for his highlight reel plays at second, while winning the equivalent of five Gold Gloves.

Since Nippon Professional Baseball began tracking runs saved at the beginning of 2018, no one in the league has been better than Kikuchi. He is considered to have saved 20 runs since that point, solidifying his stature as one of the best defensive players in the league. In fact, for a period in the middle of the 2010s, he was considered the best defensive second baseman in the world.

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While there is no question that Kikuchi has the glove to play second anywhere, there is a question of whether or not he can hit. Over his eight year career in Japan, he has posted a .271/.315/.391 batting line with 85 homers and 107 steals. Solid numbers, but that may not translate to the majors.

Kikuchi does some things well in the batter’s box. He makes consistent contact, with a career 16.2% strikeout rate. However, Kikuchi does not walk much either, with a care 5.6% walk rate. While he possesses excellent speed, his contact oriented approach does not always result in his getting to first to utilize his greatest offensive weapon.

Another possible hindrance when it comes to Kikuchi is that he is strictly a second baseman. He has just 20 games at short and one lone appearance at third, with none of those coming since 2013. While he would seemingly be a great candidate to be a utility man given his glove, there are questions as to whether or not his arm would be enough to play at short or third.

There is a market for players like Kikuchi. A team with a strong lineup can afford to have a glove first player, especially if they are a possible difference maker. Jose Iglesias could be a realistic comparison, as he hits just enough to justify being a starter. But can Kikuchi even hit at that level?

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That is the biggest question major league teams will have to ask themselves as it pertains to Ryosuke Kikuchi. His glove is major league caliber, but the rest of his game may not be worthwhile.