Recorded his first shutout victory on May 13th of this year (2014). In June he threw consecutive 160 km/hour pitches and by the end of June he led the team with 7 wins. As a hitter he's hit three home runs. In the All Star Game, he was selected as a pitcher as opposed to last year where he was an outfielder, he's going to compete as both a pitcher and a hitter going forward.
Man, was that translation rough. I often state that some of the Japanese phrases don't translate well in Japanese and this gave me the most trouble I've ever had translating Japanese into English. Then again I suck at both languages.
Anyway, this was one of my favorite pickups during my brief vacation to Japan during the holidays. Some of you may have heard about Shohei Otani (who is for some reason spelled Ohtani on the card) since he made some buzz in 2012 when he was considering coming stateside. Now some of you may be wondering why that's buzz worthy.
It was buzz worthy because he was one of the top tier talents going into the NPB draft that year to ever consider coming to the US first. The thing about most of the Japanese players that have come stateside is that more than 90% of them have played in the NPB before coming to the majors. Only rarely do Japanese players bypass the draft and come directly. The only cases I can remember are Junichi Tazawa, Mac Suzuki and a few no names that flamed out in the minors. And these guys only came here directly because they weren't good enough to get drafted by the 12 NPB teams in the first place (although the Tazawa story is a bit more complicated and messier). Meanwhile Otani was projected to be (and did end up as) a first overall draft pick. He had a 100 mph fastball that drew the attention of the Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees' scouting departments and even tied the record for fastest pitch ever thrown in the NPB with a 101 mph heater.
Now I've said this before but I've ALWAYS wanted for a potential top prospect like Otani to come to the United States directly, develop here and really show what the Japanese are made of. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the Japanese players that come over here spend some time in the NPB first. That's good and all but the overall track record for Japanese players that played in the NPB first and then came here has been mediocre and bordering on bad territory. Just once I'd like to see someone who's one of the premier youngsters in Japan come here, get brought up in the minor leagues here in America and show what they can do with the same training they received as everybody else. I guarantee that with a large enough sample size they'd show significantly better results than the Fukudomes or Matsuzakas of the past.
Unfortunately I knew this wasn't going to happen though. I mean there's a reason the Japanese leagues are so stingy about players who aren't in the NPB's grasp yet coming to America. If the MLB took every top undrafted Japanese player while they're a teenager, who's going to be left in Japan to keep the legacy and tradition of the NPB going and more importantly draw fans (that advertisers want to sell their products to) to the NPB? Nobody.
Now imagine what would've happened if Otani came to the states and actually succeeded. It would've been phenomenal and inspirational for hundreds, maybe thousands of kids playing baseball in Japan. And then they'd all want to come to the MLB directly just like Otani and bypass the NPB. A whole generation of talent/future revenue lost to another baseball organization, every baseball organization's worst nightmare.
And you'd better believe there's a precedent for this. Just look at the way the MLB is exploiting and importing talent from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and various other Latin American countries. I've heard rumblings about how the baseball leagues over there aren't too thrilled.
That typed however, the MLB has had a hard-on for
globalization neocolonialism for a while and they know damn well that the Asian market is an insanely big and profitable market. I remember reading some articles suggesting that the only thing keeping the MLB at bay from conquering the Japanese, South Korean and Taiwanese baseball landscapes completely is the Pacific Ocean. Once technology improves and transportation is no longer a problem, you'd better believe that we'll have MLB teams in Japan and shortly thereafter in various other parts of the world that we didn't know even existed (let alone played baseball).
Wow, that was bleak (but probably going to end up being true around the time I theoretically have grandchildren).
Let's get back to Otani the player. Otani ended up signing with the Nippon Ham Fighters (yes, the Ham Fighters haha) under the condition that he could be both a pitcher AND an outfielder. For the most part he's managed to not screw anything up (i.e. get hurt) and because of his strong desire to come to the MLB you can bet that various scouting departments and fan bases will have their eyes on him for years to come. However, I have heard that his future in the MLB (should he have one) is as a pitcher so it might be best for him to fine tune his pitching arsenal as much as possible in the NPB. That said, it's hard to say no to a guy who wants to break the status quo and do both pitching AND hitting. That's badass. He failed to break the other status quo so lets see how long he can keep breaking this one (although I bet he's one injury away from having to choose once and for all).
Anyway thanks for stopping by and take care :).