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Shohei Otani set to be MLB’s next Japanese craze

By: Corey Parkinson

Shohei Otani couples a blazing fastball with hard home run power and will be the next Japanese phenom with MLB teams lining up for him.

You don’t just get the nickname ‘the Japanese Babe Ruth’ without earning it just a little bit. Twenty two-year-old pitcher and outfielder Shohei Otani has dominated the Nippon Baseball Pacific League, Japan’s highest level of baseball. Not since the Great Bambino himself has somebody been able to pitch as well as hit equally impressive.

Otani, who will be able to come to America and play in MLB after the season, has had Clayton Kershaw-like dominance with Aroldis Chapman-like speed from the hill. He even set the record for fastest pitch thrown in Japanese Professional Baseball with a 102 mile-per-hour fastball. What makes Otani that much more special is that he’s also a skilled player at the plate with Giancarlo Stanton-type power. He had a home run go through the roof of the iconic Tokyo Dome. Last season alone, he batted .322 with 22 home runs and 67 RBIs in 382 plate appearances.

His Nippon-Ham Fighters ball club have developed an incredible way to utilize Otani’s abilities in the best way possible. During his days in between pitching, he serves as the team’s designated hitter. This allows him to hit and pitch throughout the season.

The 22-year-old sensation is adamant that when he comes to the Major Leagues he wants to do both. The Fighters have already agreed to post Otani at the end of the season to allow him to go to MLB, but with the new CBA agreement, Otani will lose millions coming over before he turns 25. Under the new CBA, if Otani comes over for the 2018 season the most he can make is $6 million. In contrast, Yu Darvish signed a four-year deal worth $60 million when he came over.

This rule does not seem to sway the young player through, as he stated during a 60 Minutes interview that money is of no concern and he just wants to come play with the best in the world.

Fans of baseball have seen Otani before. In a 2014 exhibition between MLB All-Stars and the Japanese team in a five-game series, Otani had seven strikeouts in a four-inning appearance while going against the likes of Yasiel Puig, Ben Zobrist, Lucas Duda, and Chris Carter. However, he was forced to miss this year’s World Baseball Classic due to a lingering ankle injury.

But the big question is which team will be able to sign the international phenom, and properly utilize his incredible skill set. Unless a National League team wants to risk putting a pitcher somewhere on the field on the days when he is not scheduled to pitch, it seems like he is destined to be in the American League. One of the front runners is the Texas Rangers, where Darvish, Otani’s mentor, plays. The Rangers have recently sent scouts to watch Otani put on a workout while he was still recovering from his ankle injury. The belief is that if the Rangers can re-sign Darvish then they may be able to use his influence to sign Otani when he is posted this offseason.

But as always, he comes with incredible risk. Potential does not always translate to the Major Leagues, so while he could be a star like Ichiro, Darvish, Hideo Nomo or Hideki Matsui, he could also be the latest Kaz Matsui or Daisuke Matsuzaka. But at the very least, his potential and shown ability from both the hill and the batters box will make him the latest Japanese prospect with MLB teams fighting over him.

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Corey Parkinson

Staff Writer
Corey grew up a sports fanatic and an athlete. A baseball player up until he was 18, his passion and love for the game has remained unchanged. From the time he was five if it involved a ball that you threw or kicked, Corey was all in. His passion for journalism began at the age of 10 when he wrote a play about a World Series involving the Seattle Mariners and The New York Mets. As a Sports Media and Marketing major currently at Full Sail University, Corey is working his way to becoming an MLB beat writer. Writing for SoMuchSports.com has given him the platform to share his knowledge and passion for sports and primarily his undying love for baseball.

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