The battle to secure the signature of Japanese teenage sensation, Shohei Otani, took a twist last month when the 18-year old pitcher was selected in the first round of the draft by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
The decision to draft the pitcher came after Otani had made it clear he was looking to skip the Japanese league in order to test himself in America straight away, a development that will no doubt have piqued the interest of fans betting on baseball.
The Nippon Professional Baseball league has grown accustomed to losing their star players to teams from the MLB, but losing a player of Otani’s potential without a fight was never going to happen.
The Fighters will now be at the centre of a bidding war between the two most powerful leagues in baseball, but a bidding war with only one real winner.
Teams from the MLB have been aware of Otani’s potential ability to affect MLB scores for a number of years now, and one of those teams will surely have the funds capable of securing the services of the teenage sensation.
“We want to get the best available player this year as the team’s first pick,” Fighters manager, Hideki Kuriyama, told reporters. “We apologize to Otani, but I believe this will only be a positive.”
The 6-foot-3 right-hander is being tracked by a host of major league teams, with the Dodgers, Yankees, Orioles, and the Rangers all very much in the hunt for the hottest young pitcher to come out of Japan since Yu Darvish.
Otani, capable of producing a 99mph fast ball, admitted his plans remained unchanged, despite being drafted by the Fighters, insisting he was still determined to head to the States as soon as possible.
“I was honestly surprised (with the draft),” Otani admitted. “I am still determined to go to the U.S.”