|Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters – No. 11|
July 5, 1994 |
Ōshū, Iwate, Japan
|NPB: March 29, 2013 for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters|
Shohei Otani (大谷 翔平 Ōtani Shōhei?, born July 5, 1994) is a Japanese baseball pitcher, outfielder, and designated hitter who plays for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. He was the first pick of the Fighters in the 2012 draft.
Early Baseball Career
Listed at 193 cm (6 ft 4 in) and 86 kg (190 lb), he has a fastball that has been clocked as high as 160 kph (99 mph). He set a new Japanese record for the fastest pitch thrown during the Prefecture Tournament in Summer Koshien, even though his team lost in the semi-final. He mainly throws a solid slider in addition to the fastball.
Otani has received interest from numerous teams including the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. On October 21, 2012 Otani announced that he would pursue a career in Major League Baseball rather than turn professional in Japan. The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters decided to draft him anyway, knowing that there was a high likelihood he would turn down the draft. After a month-long negotiation between him and the Fighters, Otani announced that he will accept the draft and spend his early career in Japan before a possible MLB move. He was assigned the jersey number 11, previously worn by Yu Darvish. The official press conference was held on December 25.
He is often rivaled with Shintaro Fujinami, a fellow 20-year old pitching prodigy currently playing for the Hanshin Tigers. The two onced locked horns in the second leg of the 2012 Summer Koshien, but Fujinami (from Osaka Toin High School) took away the win.
Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters
He made his debut in the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters' season-opening match on March 29, 2013, playing as right outfielder. He was voted as an outfielder in the 2013 All-Star Game.
During the 2014 Mazda All-Star Game, he pitched a career-high 162 kph (101 mph) at the bottom of the 1st inning, again setting a new record for the fastest official pitch thrown by a Japanese pitcher, beating the record set by the Yakult Swallows’ Yoshinori Sato in 2010 (161 kph/100 mph). The jersey he wore during the game sold for 1,752,000 yen, making it the top-seller at the All-Star 2014 Charity Auction, and the proceeds were donated to three Tohoku earthquake children's relief funds.
Throughout the entire season, Fighters manager Hideki Kurayama made Otani do double-duty as pitcher and outfielder to utilize his strong throwing arm, as well as his unusually impressive batting skills. As a hitter, he batted at .283 average (as of September 7), with 26 extra-base hits (including 10 home runs), 31 RBIs and a .869 on-base plus slugging percentage in 191 at-bats. As a pitcher, he is 10-4 with a 2.46 ERA in 21 starts and has struck out 162 in 139 innings. In the September 7 match against the Orix Buffaloes, he homered to straightaway center at Kyocera Dome to become the first Japanese player to reach double digits in both home runs and wins. He tossed a 1-0 shutout against Orix on September 13, and became the first pitcher out of high school in franchise history to record a 1-0 shutout victory within his first two years in the NPB since Toshiaki Moriyasu in 1967 (September 23). He also became the first pitcher out of high school to notch two shutout victories within his first two years in the NPB since Yu Darvish.
- Officially registered as pitcher, but occasionally playing as outfielder in 2013 season.
- Yankees intrigued by Shohei Otani, Japanese teenager with 100 mph fastball
- Rangers interested in Japanese righty Otani
- Cherington confirms team has met with Otani
- Japanese pitcher Shohei Otani chased by Yankees, Red Sox and others
- Shohei Otani, 18, wants MLB career
- Shohei Otani, Japanese high school pitcher, opts for MLB
- "Otani fireballs lead PL past CL in All-Star Game 2". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2014-07-19.
- "September 8 release". 日本野球機構 (NPB.or.jp). 2014-09-08.
- "Otani may create unique challenge". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2014-09-09.
- "Otani hits HR to notch rare double". The Japan News. 2014-09-07.
- "default". Sanspo.com. 2014-09-14.