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Shohei Otani to sign with major league team

Oct 21, 2012, 11:35 AM EDT

shohei otani getty Getty Images

Shohei Otani, an 18-year-old right-hander, was expected to be one of the top picks in Thursday’s Nippon Professional Baseball Draft. But he has suddenly decided to take a different route.

According to the AP, via NBCSports.com, Otani “will pursue a career in Major League Baseball instead of turning professional in Japan.” He has already caught the attention of scouts from several major league teams, including the Red Sox and the Dodgers.

The 6-foot-4 starting pitching prospect will naturally draw comparisons this winter to the Rangers’ Yu Darvish, but he actually throws harder. Otani was clocked this summer between 99 and 100 mph, though his command reportedly needs work.

“I think I will start in the minor leagues but I want to challenge in the majors,” Otani told the Japanese media on Sunday. “It’s been my dream since entering high school.” He would be the first player to ever jump from a¬†Japanese¬†high school to the professional ranks in the United States.

  1. hammyofdoom - Oct 21, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    This could be really interesting. Has there ever been a Japanese pitcher go straight to the US without having pitched in the Japanese majors before? I wonder if conditioning through minor league teams associated with MLB instead of pitching 4-5 years in Japan will make any difference? Even if the Sox don’t get him I’ll probably keep an eye on him

    • papalurchdxb - Oct 21, 2012 at 12:10 PM

      with a history of being dramatically overworked being part of the Japanese baseball culture, a slightly easier, managed workload in the MiLB might be beneficial – it sounds like he has the determination to take a difficult path outside of his own country on this, so stands a chance.

      Will be interesting to see how it plays out.

      • dodger88 - Oct 21, 2012 at 1:07 PM

        I thought it was the opposite – typically Japanese pitchers go once per week as opposed to every 5 days, thus they become overworked in the Majors. Unless they have higher pitch counts in their once per week outings, I can’t say I am well informed on the subject.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 21, 2012 at 1:11 PM

        You’re both right. They only pitch once a week; however, they tend to be overworked when they actually pitch. 150 pitch games are common, especially for the best pitchers, and some high school tournaments see absurd things like 170 pitch games and two days later another 150 pitches are thrown.

    • chuckleberry1974 - Oct 21, 2012 at 4:23 PM

      THYe last bit of the article answered that question, he’d be the first one. Also, Once entering tyhe Japanese leagues, Japanese born players are required to spend 9 years before becoming free agents. That’s why Ichiro was 27 when he came over with no posting fee. I think it’d be awesome if this kid signed with a ML club. One with a lot of good young pitching. One that surprised everyone this year, on the East Coast. With pitching guru Rick Peterson overseeing his development…

  2. makaylasdaddy0906 - Oct 21, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    Let go O’s and grab this kid up put him in a rotation with bundy hammel Gonzales an Chen seems legit

  3. 13arod - Oct 21, 2012 at 12:46 PM

    the red sox are always getting japanise players for some reason and they don’t turn out like superstars

    • slartibartfast4242 - Oct 21, 2012 at 4:38 PM

      Yeah, I think the problem is them being “japanise.”

  4. 13arod - Oct 21, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    the yankeeys need to get him

  5. xmatt0926x - Oct 21, 2012 at 3:41 PM

    Come on Ruben Amaro. You like to overspend on old guys. Try it with a young guy for once….

  6. slartibartfast4242 - Oct 21, 2012 at 4:40 PM

    So, how does this work with the new CBA? Can he sign as a free agent or is he subject to the amateur draft?

    • D.J. Short - Oct 21, 2012 at 6:45 PM

      Yes, he can sign as a free agent. No posting fee involved. However, teams are subject to the international spending cap.

      • randomdigits - Oct 21, 2012 at 7:01 PM

        Which is a flat 2.9 million this season, to include what teams spent last summer.

        If I was advising this kid I would have him pitch in the KBO or even independent league ball in the U.S. this season.

        If he could sign with a team next year he could get 5 million or so signing bonus.

      • geoknows - Oct 22, 2012 at 10:41 AM

        I don’t think this will post in the right place, but this is for randomdigits…Pitching in the KBO or indie ball will not allow him to sign for a higher bonus next year, as that is also not permitted under the new CBA. They have done everything to squelch any circumnavigation of the spending caps.

  7. Detroit Michael - Oct 21, 2012 at 7:31 PM

    Junichi Tazawa signed with the Boston Red Sox as a Japanese amatuer, but he didn’t sign right of out of high school.

    I wonder if the Japanese professional leagues will be OK with Otani signing with an American organization. For example, last off-seaon the Orioles essentially got themselves blacklisted from South Korea by signing one of that country’s amateur players.

  8. jayquintana - Oct 21, 2012 at 7:33 PM

    This will be interesting. But right now, he’s a golfer who can drive 300 yards but doesn’t have much of a short game. In other words, he’s far from a sure thing.

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