We’re not even a full week into the start of the season, and this offseason is already guaranteed to be among the most interesting we’ve seen in some time.
In an interview with “60 Minutes” that will air this Sunday night on CBS, 22-year-old Japanese sensation Shohei Otani reveals (link) that he plans to come stateside this winter. This news comes as a surprise to many, as Otani was not expected to make the jump this soon. Major League Baseball rules state that an international player under the age of 25 is only eligible to sign for the league minimum. In the case of Otani, this is a move that will likely cost him in the neighborhood of $200 million.
Dubbed the “Japanese Babe Ruth,” the right-handed flamethrower has made headlines for his success — both on the mound, and at the plate. Last season, Otani really opened the eyes of those within the industry, posting a 10-4 record with 174 strikeouts, and a 1.86 ERA in 140 innings of work. While impressive initially, those stats were made even more impressive by the fact that he also boasted a .322 average with 22 home runs, 67 RBIs, and seven stolen bases in 382 plate appearances.
This season has started off a little treacherous for Otani, as an ankle injury that he re-aggravated in a November exhibition against Mexico prevented him from taking the mound thus far. Further adding to the less-than-ideal start, is the news (link) that Otani will now miss the next four weeks of action after pulling a leg muscle while attempting to beat out a ground ball. Obviously this comes as disappointing news, given that Otani’s bat was off to a red-hot start with a .423 average, a pair of home runs, and three RBIs.
In what will surely be an interesting sweepstakes, the main question that has everyone’s attention is surrounding Otani’s position eligibility. Some have questioned whether teams would be willing to take a shot on him as a player with dual-eligibility, or are they going to force him into making a choice. Whatever team signs him — and there’s sure to be a laundry list of suitors — there’s only one thing that we know: they will have landed a player with an almost limitless talent ceiling.