Word was that the White Sox were hot for Jorge Soler, but that signing went to the other side of town. Yoenis Cespedes, Soler’s countryman was highly sought after by a large portion of the league, the White Sox included, but the Oakland Athletics managed to land that big Cuban fish. The Caribbean isn’t the only place to make a splash in the international market, and in the last few days there is a name from the east that’s been coming up an awful lot: Shohei Otani.
Otani, 18, hails from Japan and intends to make the jump to Major League Baseball rather than going the traditional route and playing for the Nippon Professional Baseball League. Doing so would make him the first to go from Japanese High School directly to the United States. Typically players will begin with NPB before garnering interest from Major League Clubs, requiring the signing club to essentially bid for the right to sign the player; the winning bid going as a posting fee to the NPB team. Most recently this was seen with Yu Darvish, who ultimately went to the Texas Rangers.
Shohei Otani is said to be similar to Darvish, inasmuch as they are both of larger frames than most Japanese pitchers, and both throw hard, with Otani having been recently clocked in the high 90’s. Otani, though, is only 18 years old and would need work before pitching for a big league club, and he knows it. He’s perfectly willing to pitch in the minors, learn, and improve before making his way to a major league roster.
If the White Sox were to show interest, Otani wouldn’t factor in for 2013, or even 2014, but it might prove to be a move for the future, not just in the arm of the Japanese teenager but in relations during this groundbreaking event. A precedent is being set, and when teams get in early and become a part of not yet tread international paths, others tend to follow down the same road.
Then again, NPB might not take kindly to Otani breaking from tradition, nor the team that helped him do it. It’s entirely possible that he doesn’t come across the pacific just yet, yielding to domestic pressure and playing for a local team. If he does make the leap, it wouldn’t hurt the White Sox terribly to give him a look.