When the Nippon Ham Fighters selected 18-year-old right-handed pitcher Shohei Ontani with the first overall pick in the Nippon Professional Baseball League draft on Thursday, it had implications beyond a team merely selecting a highly rated amateur pitcher.

Before being drafted, Otani declared interest in playing Major League Baseball instead of plying his trade in Japan. However, after being selected in the draft, he will unavailable to Major League teams until the Spring of 2013 at the earliest due to an agreement between MLB and NPBL.

Update: According to Ben Badler of Baseball America, Otani is still free to sign with an MLB team at any time. The Fighters only have exclusive negotiating rights with Otani among teams in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball.

The Fighters will attempt to sign Otani despite his previously stated preference. If they’re able to persuade him, Otani would have to be posted by his Japanese team, and undergo the same process as Yu Darvish last winter, if he hopes to play in North America. However, Otani would still fall under the $2.9 million international bonus pools for the 2012-13 signing period. Foreign professionals need to be at least 23 and have at least five years in a recognized professional league to avoid under the current spending limits.

Also of note is the Hanshin Tigers selecting Shintaro Fujinami, who has been talked about in the same breath as Otani. Fujinami has also garnered some degree of interest from Major League clubs, but he wasn’t as a adamant as Otani about playing at baseball’s highest level.

Okay, so bring on the racist comps to Darvish, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Nomo.

Comments (19)

  1. MLBTR has posted the following…I don’t know what thia all means really

    3:11pm: Otani can sign with an MLB team at any time, an MLB official confirmed to Ben Badler of Baseball America. Signing with an MLB team at this stage would likely irk the Fighters and other Japanese baseball officials, however. If the Fighters sign Otani then attempt to post him, he’d still count against teams’ $2.9MM international bonus pools, Badler reports. Fujinami expects to start his professional career in Japan, according to Badler.

  2. lol Hideki Nomo ?

    • Pretty sure that’s a joke about people confusing all Japanese players.

      • No, it’s clearly a comment about how those players will be used as comparisons for his abilities JUST because they’re of the same race.

  3. The new MLB collective bargaining agreement drives me nuts. The poor (in both meanings of the word) international players are the only ones harmed by it. Let him go to the highest bidder and get paid. I know coming from Japan it is not as big of deal but the Latin American guys got fucked in this deal.

  4. can’t wait for the Jays to not get him

  5. He’s got the stride of a young Tim Lincecum

  6. Give that boy a sandwich

  7. Help us out here. Why “racist comps” ?

    I assume it is not racist to compare players coming from the Japanese system any more than it is to compare players that come from other systems? Sorry to use hockey as the first comparison to come to mind but people discuss OHL vs QHL vs WHL vs KHL (and so forth) stats all the time.

    For that matter we hear all the time about the offense and ballpark qualities of the Pacific Coast League and what a joke it is to try to compare it to other leagues.

    The info in the article was great. I’m just baffled where the last, very condescending sentence came from.

    • Those are all leagues, not races. The comment is simply preparing the masses for all the weak comparisons that will start flowing out that utilize asian players because they look alike. It happens every time.

      Would it be correct to compare Wade Simmons and George Laraque? Their games are nothing alike …

      Get the gist before you rag-wipe.

    • Analysts like to compare players of the same race as they describe one player versus another. When the talking heads inevitably compare Otani with Darvish, it won’t be because they have similar mechanics, pitch velocity, arsenal, sequencing, size, age, or personality. It will be because they are both Japanese. If Otani’s pitcher profile were to be identical to blond-haired-blue-eyed Roy Halladay, analysts would tend not to compare them, just as no one ever called CC Sabathia a left-handed version of Curt Shilling, even though that’s a pretty apt comparison.

      I remember when Hidecki Matsui was breaking into the league, the discussion centred around how there really wasn’t a comparison for him because he was nothing like Ichiro! (you know, because power-hitting corner outfielders who hit left have never existed previously). This is inherent racism. Perhaps Parkes could have been a little less condescending, but if your sensibilities are offended by Parkes being condescending, then this must be the first (and last) of his posts that you’re reading.

  8. i totally agree with james. parkes you have gone too far.

  9. this will be a bad precedent. scott boras will use this case to help top american amateurs to skip the major league draft and sign with mlb teames as international free agents from japan.

  10. Imagine how racist it would be if they did this for white players. “Among white pitchers…” would not fly.

    • Yea, but only because of a political correctness backlash … as in “why are we excluding minorities from the comparison, that isn’t fair”.

  11. Doesn’t coming from the same posting system make it a very apt comparison?

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