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Scouting report on Japanese prospect Shohei Otani

Oct 24, 2012, 1:40 PM EDT

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Japanese high school pitcher Shohei Otani made headlines earlier this week by telling teams not to select him in the Nippon Professional Baseball Draft because he plans to sign directly with an MLB team rather than beginning his career in Japan.

Otani is considered a very good prospect with lots of upside, but exactly how good and exactly how much upside? Baseball America‘s international prospect guru Ben Badler wrote a lengthy article about top Japanese prospects that includes a scouting report on Otani:

At 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, Otani is a strong, physical pitcher with square shoulders and a durable body. … Otani has great arm speed and arm action with a loose, easy delivery. His fastball sits around 92-96 mph and has touched 98. Pitching every fifth day, Otani’s fastball may sit in the lower end of that range, but his power arm is a major draw for scouts. …

Scouts were mixed on Otani’s offspeed pitches. His best secondary offering is his tight slider that he throws around 82-85 mph. He also mixes in a splitter and a big, slow curveball that so many Japanese pitchers seem to throw. The one area where scouts consistently said Otani needs work is on his command, as he’s prone to bouts of wildness and isn’t as advanced in that area compared to the U.S. high school pitchers who went in the first round in the draft this year.

Because of the changes to the collective bargaining agreement teams are limited in what they can offer Otani, capping his potential signing bonus at just under $3 million. Badler considers him a late first-round talent and like most high school pitchers he’d be years away from the majors, so it’ll be interesting to see how many teams are willing to devote their entire international prospect budget to Otani.

  1. geoknows - Oct 24, 2012 at 2:02 PM

    From FanGraphs; also interesting but not quite as flattering:

    “Patrick Newman from the site NPB Tracker said that scouts had him at 150 to 155 kmh (93.2 to 96.3 mph) at that game — still great velocity but not quite triple digits. And though we don’t have readily available statistics for Japanese high school, news of his bad control has followed excitement about his velocity and stuff. Newman excellently wrote up an Otani start in one of their legendary tournaments, and he points out that a) Otani’s fastball, slider and curve all showed excellent raw stuff and the young man struck out 11 in eight-plus innings and b) his control was unrefined, he walked 11, and looked terrible by the end of the game. Oh and Newman also had less flattering video, this time of the pitcher falling apart in the seventh inning. For one last asterisk, Otani threw 173 pitches in that game, which happens often in Japanese high school, but could make an American team balk if the asking price rises too high.”

  2. Ari Collins - Oct 24, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    Per Jim Callis (also of BA, and this time a free article), the limit on international spending is not likely to curb spending on Otani:

  3. 13arod - Oct 24, 2012 at 2:46 PM

    i heard that he did reach triple digits a couple of times

  4. jayquintana - Oct 24, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    By no means is he a sure thing, but what high school pitcher is?

  5. storebrandcookies - Oct 24, 2012 at 7:25 PM

    I heard the Rangers and Nolan Ryan met with him and bought him Yu Darvish signed baseballs. Yu Darvish is every Japanese pitcher’s hero so I wouldn’t be surprised if he signs with the Rangers. At $3 million, that’s like change to the Rangers. It would be nice to see a Japanese pitcher in a American team that doesn’t have tons of mileage on them like Daisuke, Nomo, Kuroda, Darvish, etc.

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