Shohei Otani to be Top Pick by Nippon Ham

High school right hander Shohei Otani is the consensus top amateur in Japan and recently, he announced his intentions to bypass the Japanese professional leagues and head straight for baseball in North America. It’s certainly not common, but not unprecedented, either.

Otani will draw serious interest as an international free agent and the Rangers and Red Sox are known to be two teams who will be aggressive in their pursuit.

Now, from Patrick at NPB Tracker, comes word that the Nippon Ham Fighters, who hold the top overall pick in Japan’s amateur draft, still plan to select Otani, despite his intentions to head for the States.

If the Fighters follow through with their threat to draft Otani (the draft takes place today), they will hold the exclusive rights to him until at least March, thanks to an agreement between NPB and MLB that prohibits one league from contacting players under contract with the other.

The idea, I’m sure, for Nippon Ham, is that they hope to be able to convince Otani to stay in Japan and sign with them. It’s an awfully big risk to use the number one overall pick on a guy they don’t think they can sign. But they’ve decided that Otani is the best available prospect and they’ll roll the dice on perhaps sacrificing their top pick.

If nothing else, this news will keep Otani out of the US until March at the earliest. And you though the Yu Darvish sweepstakes dragged out through the off-season last year.

Tags: Nippon Ham Fighters NPB Shohei Otani

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