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MLB-bound Shohei Otani picked in first round of Japan’s draft

Oct 25, 2012, 2:51 PM EDT

Shohei Otani Getty Images

Despite the declaration that he wants to pitch in MLB, right-hander Shohei Otani was picked in the first round in Japan’s amateur draft by the Nippon Ham Fighters on Thursday.

The selection means that Otani will be unable to sign with an MLB team before the end of March, per an agreement between the two leagues. That gives the Fighters a few months to try to change his mind about making the jump across the Pacific. If Otani had gone undrafted, he could have signed with an MLB team immediately. The Rangers, Dodgers and Red Sox have been labeled his biggest suitors.

“My feelings haven’t changed,” Otani said after being selected. “I’m grateful that they appreciate me, but it doesn’t change my desire to play in America.”

Fellow right-hander Shintaro Fujinami also went in the first round, getting selected by the Hanshin Tigers. Like Otani, Fujinami has been the subject of interest from MLB teams. However, it’s believed he intends to remain in Japan.

  1. 13arod - Oct 25, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    he will be back in march

  2. cur68 - Oct 25, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    Kid shouldn’t pass up the chance to fight ham. That would be so cool on a CV: “In 2012, I was chosen 1st overall to fight ham for Nippon. So I went and I did my best. I fought ham”. Cool.

    • amaninwhite - Oct 25, 2012 at 4:13 PM

      The only possible thing that could be cooler would be the opportunity to fight foo.

      • cur68 - Oct 25, 2012 at 4:18 PM

        I fought the foo…and the foo won. *sigh*

    • sophiethegreatdane - Oct 25, 2012 at 4:21 PM

      Really hamming it up there, aren’t ya? Listen, I’m all for a good food pun, but I’m not going to egg you on for the halibut. Stick a pork in me, I’m done.

    • paperlions - Oct 25, 2012 at 8:43 PM

      Do they have a lot of jewish players? Seems like a match made in heaven, no?

  3. mattyflex - Oct 25, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    Remember when the Royals hired Trey Hillman to be their head coach after he took the Nippon Ham Fighters from worst to first in four years? And then David Glass wouldn’t spend money on players and blamed him for being a bad coach? Good times.

  4. js20011041 - Oct 25, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    I’m not familiar with the rules over there, but don’t you have to declare for a draft in order to be eligible? I mean, they can’t just start draft a player against his will and control their rights to play baseball, can they? I’m assuming that now a major league team is going to have to pay a posting fee in order to sign this kid. If that’s the case, this really sucks because that money is only going to come out of his signing bonus.

    • poprox13 - Oct 25, 2012 at 4:44 PM

      I think they would only have to pay the posting fee if he actually signs with the Ham Fighters. If he doesnt sign he can sign with and MLB team in March with no posting fee.

    • gammagammahey - Oct 25, 2012 at 5:20 PM

      At least as far as MLB goes, you don’t have to declare for the draft. If you meet the eligibility requirements, any team can draft you. When you hear about players “declaring” for the draft, it’s usually in football or basketball where players enter the draft by leaving school early. And no, there won’t be a posting fee in this case.

    • thereisaparty - Oct 25, 2012 at 6:27 PM

      Shohei did indeed declare for the NPB draft. This is reason the Fighters gave in drafting him, stating that this move on his part demonstrated a desire to stay in Japan or at least an apprehension towards moving to the MLB.

    • thereisaparty - Oct 25, 2012 at 6:28 PM

      Re: posting fees

      If Shohei signs with the Fighters, they likely would not make him available for 5 years.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 26, 2012 at 9:06 AM

      Fair question. Not sure who the (6) Slapdicks are that gave you the thumbs down. The way I understand it…the signing bonus would only have to be paid by a MLB club if he is already signed with a Japanese club.
      The Japanese club drafted him and are going to try to change his mind about coming to the States.

  5. poprox13 - Oct 25, 2012 at 4:40 PM

    I think the Blue Jays should change their name to the Toronto Canadian Bacon Fighters.

    • thereisaparty - Oct 25, 2012 at 6:35 PM

      Not sure if people are joking here, but I’ll put this out there for those unfamiliar with NPB. The company that owns the team is Nippon Ham. The team is called the Fighters. It is Company Mascot, not City Mascot.

      • poprox13 - Oct 25, 2012 at 7:12 PM

        yes, it was a joke. sorry if that wasnt clear :)

      • paperlions - Oct 25, 2012 at 8:42 PM

        We know….but that isn’t nearly as fun or funny.

  6. maximusprime107 - Oct 25, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    Kind of lame of the team to draft him when he wants to play in the MLB and making it longer until he can sign with an MLB team

    • jayquintana - Oct 25, 2012 at 6:14 PM

      They’re probably thinking they got five months to “guilt trip” the kid and his parents into staying in Japan. I wouldn’t be surprised if they succeed.

    • thereisaparty - Oct 25, 2012 at 6:32 PM

      Fighters punted last year’s first round pick too. Drafted the top college arm despite his declaration that he would only play for the Giants. True to his word, he didn’t even open negotiations with the Fighters.

      However, Shohei declared for the NPB draft. It was well within the Fighters rights to draft him and try to sign him. Regardless, if he does end up signing with an MLB team, this delay in negotiation should hardly delay his development. He is 18 and it is the offseason.

  7. randygnyc - Oct 25, 2012 at 6:44 PM

    Why would they draft a player who declares his intention to come to America? Someone should lose their job. They’ve wasted the pick and missed on drafting the next best talent.

    • thereisaparty - Oct 25, 2012 at 7:03 PM

      With his frame and velocity, the Yu Darvish comparisons are frequent. The Fighters now have 5 months to sell an 18yo on this idea. Superstardom in his home country or the rough life of a minor league made rougher by not speaking the language. Also, because of his age, Otani would be subject to the international FA spending limits outlined in the latest CBA. By the time he would be posted (usu 8 years), this would no longer be in effect, leading to a bigger payday. Secondly, if he does skip the NPB, Otani would be hit by the penalty of the “Tazawa rule” – keeping him from playing for an NPB club for three years AFTER his return to his home country.

      • jayquintana - Oct 25, 2012 at 7:15 PM

        Hopefully, the kid’s agents have brought him to America already. The more he stays in Japan, the more likely it is he won’t leave.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 25, 2012 at 7:42 PM

        Also, because of his age, Otani would be subject to the international FA spending limits outlined in the latest CBA. By the time he would be posted (usu 8 years), this would no longer be in effect, leading to a bigger payday

        Except Japan’s restrictions on contracts are even worse than the new MLB CBA re: IFA spending. Here’s a comment by Jack Gallagher who’s the Executive Sports Editor of The Japan Times:

        One problem going forward for NPB teams is that they are limited to offering a ¥100 million ($1.2 million) signing bonus and ¥50 million ($600,000) in incentives, along with a first-year salary of ¥15 million ($180,000) to domestic prospects. U.S. teams are free to exceed those figures.

        Great article, should read all of it:

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