Young Japanese right-hander Shohei Otani has announced that he will play for the Nippon-Ham Fighters in the NPB rather than sign with an MLB club next spring, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times:
Teenage pitching prospect Shohei Otani announced his intention to start his professional career in his native Japan and sign with the Nippon-Ham Fighters.
Otani, 18, had previously said he would to come to the United States and the Dodgers were confident they would sign him.
Otani declared in a statement two months ago that he planned to surpass the Japanese professional ball completely and sign directly with an MLB club this winter.
A major hitch in Otani’s plan developed, however, when Nippon drafted the high-schooler with the top pick in the October draft. Once the right-hander was drafted, he was forbidden from negotiating with an MLB club.
Per an agreement between MLB and NPB, the drafting club has exclusive negotiating rights with the player from the day of the draft until early April. If Otani had not reached an agreement with Nippon at that point, then MLB clubs could have signed the youngster.
Several big-league clubs – including the Dodgers, Yankees and Rangers – were rumored to be interested in the flame-throwing right-hander, but they will now have to wait a few years to make a run at him. Otani told Hernandez that he plans to come stateside eventually, but will begin his career in Japan.