Scouting report on Japanese prospect Shohei Otani

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Japanese high school pitcher Shohei Otani made headlines earlier this week by telling teams not to select him in the Nippon Professional Baseball Draft because he plans to sign directly with an MLB team rather than beginning his career in Japan.

Otani is considered a very good prospect with lots of upside, but exactly how good and exactly how much upside? Baseball America‘s international prospect guru Ben Badler wrote a lengthy article about top Japanese prospects that includes a scouting report on Otani:

At 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, Otani is a strong, physical pitcher with square shoulders and a durable body. … Otani has great arm speed and arm action with a loose, easy delivery. His fastball sits around 92-96 mph and has touched 98. Pitching every fifth day, Otani’s fastball may sit in the lower end of that range, but his power arm is a major draw for scouts. …

Scouts were mixed on Otani’s offspeed pitches. His best secondary offering is his tight slider that he throws around 82-85 mph. He also mixes in a splitter and a big, slow curveball that so many Japanese pitchers seem to throw. The one area where scouts consistently said Otani needs work is on his command, as he’s prone to bouts of wildness and isn’t as advanced in that area compared to the U.S. high school pitchers who went in the first round in the draft this year.

Because of the changes to the collective bargaining agreement teams are limited in what they can offer Otani, capping his potential signing bonus at just under $3 million. Badler considers him a late first-round talent and like most high school pitchers he’d be years away from the majors, so it’ll be interesting to see how many teams are willing to devote their entire international prospect budget to Otani.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.