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Shohei Otani will be drafted by NPB club, move to MLB on hold

The Nippon Ham Fighters are expected to take Otani with their first pick, delaying his signing with an MLB club.

Chung Sung-Jun

Japanese right-hander Shohei Otani may have to wait several months to sign with an MLB club after the Nippon Ham Fighters declared their intention to select the high-schooler with their first pick in the draft, reports Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker:

Aaaaaaaaaaaand we have our first bit of drama in Shohei Otani‘s journey to MLB. Quoted in Sanspo, Nippon Ham Fighters GM Masao Yamada has declared his intent to select Otani with his first pick in today’s (JST time) draft.

If Nippon Ham (or any other NPB team) drafts Otani, they will have the right to sign him until the end of March 2013.

If Nippon does indeed select the young right-hander, big league clubs will not be able to negotiate with Otani until after the Ham Fighters cease talks with him because of an agreement between the MLB and NPB.

Otani declared his intention of going directly to the MLB last week, but obviously Nippon feels that they can change his mind. If Otani does surpass the NPB, he will become the first Japanese player to start his professional career with an MLB club.

In an in-depth scouting report on Otani, Ben Badler of Baseball America writes that the right-hander:

...is a strong, physical pitcher with square shoulders and a durable body. … Otani has great arm speed and arm action with a loose, easy delivery. His fastball sits around 92-96 mph and has touched 98. Pitching every fifth day, Otani’s fastball may sit in the lower end of that range, but his power arm is a major draw for scouts.

The Red Sox, Rangers, Yankees and Dodgers are among several teams rumored to have interest in the young right-hander.