3:11pm: Otani can sign with an MLB team at any time, an MLB official confirmed to Ben Badler of Baseball America. Signing with an MLB team at this stage would likely irk the Fighters and other Japanese baseball officials, however. If the Fighters sign Otani then attempt to post him, he'd still count against teams' $2.9MM international bonus pools, Badler reports. Fujinami expects to start his professional career in Japan, according to Badler.
8:10am: Shohei Otani, the Japanese pitching prospect who's drawing interest from Major League teams, won't be able to sign with an MLB franchise before April of 2013. As expected, the Nippon Ham Fighters selected the 18-year-old right-hander with the first overall pick in the NPB draft, Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker reports (on Twitter).
The Fighters won’t necessarily be able to sign Otani, who has said he intends to pursue a career in MLB. They have until the end of March to agree to terms with the hard-throwing prospect under an agreement between MLB and NPB. If Otani declines to sign with the Fighters, MLB teams will be able to bid on him as a free agent, though they’ll be subject to international spending restrictions.
The Hanshin Tigers selected Shintaro Fujinami, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America (on Twitter). Some scouts prefer Fujinami to Otani, Badler writes.