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.

Sean Manaea pitches first no-hitter of 2018

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Athletics southpaw Sean Manaea delivered his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox in a decisive 3-0 victory on Saturday night. Any thought of a perfect game was banished in the first at-bat, when Mookie Betts drew a leadoff six-pitch walk to open the first inning. From there, Manaea was nearly flawless, holding the Sox to four total baserunners and striking out 10 of 30 batters faced — a career record.

Manaea was gifted a three-run lead thanks to RBI doubles from Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty and Marcus Semien‘s solo shot off of Chris Sale in the fifth inning. While the Red Sox managed to draw two walks off of Manaea, they didn’t come anywhere close to plating a run. Andrew Benintendi tried to break up the no-no in the sixth inning with an infield hit down the first base line, but strayed out of bounds and later saw his hit reversed on a call of batter interference.

Entering the ninth inning, the 26-year-old lefty was sitting at just 95 pitches through eight frames of no-hit ball. He quickly deposed Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts with a groundout and fly out, then walked Benintendi on seven pitches. Any threat the Red Sox might have posed was soon eliminated, however, as Hanley Ramirez ground into a force out to complete the no-hitter.

Manaea is the first A’s pitcher to toss a no-no since Dallas Braden’s perfect game against the Rays eight years ago. The last time the Red Sox were on the losing end of a no-hitter was also against an AL West rival, when the Mariners’ Chris Bosio clinched a 2-0 no-no on April 22, 1993. Manaea’s feat is even more outstanding given how dominant the Red Sox have looked this season: prior to Saturday’s defeat, they boasted a 17-2 record and had yet to be shut out during the regular season.