Japanese pitcher Shohei Otani announced that he will play for Japan’s Nippon Ham Fighters rather than sign with a MLB team this winter, according to Yasuko Yanagita of Hochi Shimbun (via Twitter). The 18-year-old hurler seemed likely to come stateside for quite some time but recently started leaning towards remaining in Japan.
The Dodgers, Rangers, and Yankees were among the teams known to be in on Otani. The Dodgers reportedly would have been “shocked” if the right-hander signed with an MLB team other than them, but they were skeptical that he would come stateside at all. The Nippon Ham Fighters have come out as the victor after selecting Otani with the first overall pick in the NPB draft.
The 6’4″ right-hander was often compared to Yu Darvish by MLB scouts. Otani boasts a strong fastball that has been clocked in the 99-100 mph range and could have been the first top NPB draft pick to make the direct jump from high school in Japan to the U.S.