Japanese pitching prospect Shohei Otani announced that he will pursue a career in MLB rather than turn professional in Japan, according to the Associated Press. The Red Sox, Rangers, and Dodgers have all sent representatives to Japan to meet with Otani recently and the Orioles are also said to have interest in the right-hander.
"I think I will start in the minor leagues but I want to challenge in the majors. It's been my dream since entering high school," said the 18-year-old.
Otani, who stands at 6'4" and weighs 190 pounds, has a strong fastball that has been clocked in the 99-100 mph range. If Otani signs with a major league club, he'll be the first potential top NPB draft pick to make the direct jump from high school in Japan to the U.S.
As a tall right-hander, many are quick to compare Otani to fellow Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. Otani boasts a similarly live arm with a little bit more velocity and a lot less polish than Darvish showed in high school, writes Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker. In terms of build, Otani is slightly shorter than the 26-year-old hurler but is heavier than Darvish was at 18.