NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The so-called “Babe Ruth of Japan” is coming to North America.
According to multiple reports, 23-year-old Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani will enter the posting system this winter and play for a major league team next season.
The Yankees were among the MLB teams that sent scouts last month to see Otani play for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
Otani is considered by some to be the best player Japan has produced in years, if not decades. He’s a power hitter who also has a 102 mph fastball.
Because of Major League Baseball’s new rules restricting the signings of international players under age 25, Otani will leave hundreds of millions of dollars on the table, according to Yahoo. He will collect at most $10.1 million, which eliminates the possibility of a frenzied bidding war for his services.
Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball must first iron out a new posting system that will pay Otani’s Japanese team at least $20 million. Once he is posted, he will be given a window to choose his new team.
Otani, who throws right-handed and bats left-handed, has a full pitching arsenal featuring a four-seamer, forkball, slider and curve. Scouts have compared the 6-foot-4, 203-pounder to a young Justin Verlander. When he’s not pitching, he plays in the outfield.
Otani, who has been plagued by injuries this season, is batting .346 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs. On the mound, he is 0-2 with a 15.43 ERA.
Last season, he hit .322 with 27 homers and was 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA, including 174 strikeouts in 140 innings.
The Yankees are no strangers to the Japanese market. Pitcher Hideki Irabu and 2009 World Series MVP outfielder Hideki Matsui were among those to defect to the Bronx, and Masahiro Tanaka, though struggling this season, has enjoyed a lot of success in North America.