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Shohei Otani chooses the US over the NPB [UPDATED at 11:07pm]

by on Oct.21, 2012 @ 5:46 pm, under High School

Shohei Otani held a press conference at Hanamaki Higashi and announced that he selected the US over the NPB.  He is now expected to pick which teams he wants to sign with: the LA Dodgers, Texas Rangers, and Boston Red Sox.  The Dodgers are considered the front-runners.  Source: Daily Sports 10/21/2012, Sponichi 10/21/2012, Nikkan Sports 10/21/2012

Nikkan Sports has provided the following quote from Otani:

I had a tough time making up my mind, but I have decided to play in America.  I will have to begin at the minor league level, but I want to improve myself in a difficult environment.  There were some differences between my thoughts and those around me, but I ultimately went with what I wanted.  I am still not sure which team I want to go to.

Source: Nikkan Sports 10/21/2012

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Three players in the past have skipped the NPB draft and played at the MLB level.

Makoto "Mac" Suzuki - dropped out of high school and went to the US to study abroad, signed with the Seattle Mariners in 1993 after spending some time with an independent league baseball team.

Kazuhito Tadano - was a top prospect in the Tokyo Big 6 but was not selected in the 2002 draft because of a scandal.  He signed with the Cleveland Indians in 2003.

Junichi Tazawa - played for industrial league team and was considered a top draft pick in 2008.  He announced he wanted to play in the Majors and asked teams not to select him.  His name was never called during the draft.  He signed with the Boston Red Sox on December 4, 2008.

Nikkan Sports 10/21/2012

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UPDATE @ 11:07pm - Nikkan Sports has posted parts of the press conference:

You decided to head to the US.

I think I will start in the minor leagues, but I want to pitch in the Majors.

What made you pick the US?

It was my dream when I enrolled [in Hanamaki].  I wanted to go when I was still young.  I did want to play in the NPB as well, but my feelings for playing in the Majors was stronger.

You have decided to go down a path no one else has before.

It was a difficult decision.  Some of my opinions did not match my parents or those around me and I was not sure what to do.  I had to do a lot of thinking so now that it is down, I feel relieved.  I am glad I was able to say my feelings.

What kind of player do you want to become?

I watched the NPB and the MLB and decided to play baseball.  I now want to become the kind of player that makes kids want to become baseball players.

What about your parents that decided to respect your decision?

We clashed at times, but they ultimately decided to support me so I am grateful.

Source: Nikkan Sports 10/21/2012

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About sixty members of the media attended the press conference.  Otani appeared with his father.

Otani's father wanted him to stay in Japan where there were fewer concerns, regardless, he will fully support his decision.  Said Otani's father, "The final decision is up to him.  I want him to become a pitcher the fans can enjoy."

About forty students and people in the area also watched the press conference.

Source: Sponichi 10/21/2012

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Hanamaki Higashi manager Hiroshi Sasaki: "I would like to [ask the NPB] to listen to his intentions. ... I think he said he was fifty-fifty because he did not want to cause any fuss for the high school and manager. ... I am proud to have been able to play together."

Japan High School Baseball Federation secretary Masahiko Takenaka: "One third-year high school student announced his decision.  That student happened to be a top draft candidate and it is being covered widely by the press.  He made the decision after thinking about it.  I want to respect [that decision."

Source: Sanspo 10/21/2012

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Lotte and Seibu have given up on Otani.  Softbank really likes Otani and may still select him.  Yomiuri does not think the rules are working properly and feels the NPB needs to discuss what can be done to appeal to players that want to play in the US.  Chunichi chief scout Muneo Nakada feels US teams have an unfair advantage because their scouts have a lot more flexibility and that there is a growing gap in the amount of information they are collecting.  Rakuten manager Senichi Hoshino thinks the penalty for skipping the draft and heading to the US is too short.  Source: Sanspo 10/21/2012

6 comments on “Shohei Otani chooses the US over the NPB [UPDATED at 11:07pm]

  1. Arthur

    If he wants to play in the majors, this is probably the best decision for him. I think NPB needs to look at its free agency requirements and make them less strict.

  2. Felix Quiros

    If NPB make their free agency requirements, they couldn’t compete with MLB and it would mean big trouble. Otani should think it twice. Some prespects never reach the majors and he could find himself playing nowhere. Maybe Europe or Australia. Who does remember Erik Sonberg? He was a lefthanded pitching prospect drafted by the Dodgers right before Roger Clemens back in 1983. I wish Shohei Otani good luck.

  3. Azza

    I hope it works out for Otani, but the chances of getting lost in numbers is very high in MLB Organisations, he may well receive a big sigining bonus, but then a lot of Taiwanese players receive these and i was looking at them and saw how few made it to the show.

    But i sincerely hope he can make it

  4. Steve Novosel

    I think a shorter time for international free agency eligibility would be wise. But I can’t help but think that the path to success is much more smooth in Japan than the US. You know he is going to get a chance to play and soon against high-level competition in Japan, but in the US he will be in the minors for years, best case.

    Even experienced university pitchers take some time to come up to MLB rosters. And if he is not a success in MLB (especially if he doesn’t make an MLB roster), what will happen to him back in Japan?

  5. Arthur

    It is indeed a riskier option, but I can see why he doesn’t want to wait until he’s well into his mid-20s to pursue his dream. To me it makes sense to start in the US system if that’s where he wants to be a success. Maybe that’ll spare him the adjustments he’d have to make if he transitioned from NPB to MLB later. But, who knows? There haven’t been many cases to examine. Tazawa seems to be doing well is the only thing we can reasonably say.

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