Shohei Otani, an 18-year-old right-hander, was expected to be one of the top picks in Thursday’s Nippon Professional Baseball Draft. But he has suddenly decided to take a different route.
According to the AP, via NBCSports.com, Otani “will pursue a career in Major League Baseball instead of turning professional in Japan.” He has already caught the attention of scouts from several major league teams, including the Red Sox and the Dodgers.
The 6-foot-4 starting pitching prospect will naturally draw comparisons this winter to the Rangers’ Yu Darvish, but he actually throws harder. Otani was clocked this summer between 99 and 100 mph, though his command reportedly needs work.
“I think I will start in the minor leagues but I want to challenge in the majors,” Otani told the Japanese media on Sunday. “It’s been my dream since entering high school.” He would be the first player to ever jump from a Japanese high school to the professional ranks in the United States.
The first game of Thursday’s doubleheader against the Mets in Philadelphia didn’t go so well for the Phillies. The pitching staff — which included two position players — served up 24 runs on 25 hits and seven walks. The defense also committed four errors.
The most damage came in the top of the fifth inning when the Mets hung a 10-spot. That inning featured a balk, two errors, and a grand slam from José Bautista. In the seventh, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler called on position player Roman Quinn to pitch. Quinn gave up a leadoff home run to Michael Conforto. After José Reyes singled, Quinn uncorked a wild pitch, which moved Reyes into scoring position. Kevin Plawecki then knocked him in with a single. In the eighth, the Mets jumped on Quinn again as he loaded the bases, then forced in two runs with walks and gave up a two-run double to Plawecki. Kapler brought in another position player, Scott Kingery, to pitch. Kingery gave up an RBI single to reliever Jerry Blevins before getting out of the eighth inning. Kingery gave up two more runs in the ninth before the game went in the books.
Kingery, by the way, was pitching so slowly that his velocity wasn’t being picked up by the radar guns at Citizens Bank Park, according to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
In total, the Phillies’ pitching staff gave up 11 earned runs. It’s the most unearned runs a team has allowed since May 5, 2016 when the Giants gave up 17 runs, only six of which were earned, to the Rockies. The only other time that happened in the 2000’s was on September 28, 2000 when the Blue Jays gave up 23 runs, 10 of which were earned, to the Orioles. A team has yielded 11 or more unearned runs in a single game only 11 times since 1943. The 24 total runs the Phillies allowed were the most a team has allowed since… the Mets gave up 25 to the Nationals on July 31 this year. The 24 runs the Mets scored marked a franchise record. They also became the first team since 1894 to both score 24-plus runs and allow 24-plus runs in a game in the same season.
Thankfully for Phillies fans, Thursday afternoon’s contest was only broadcast on Facebook Live. Which, by the way, is another one of Major League Baseball’s brilliant marketing ideas. When games are broadcast on Facebook Live, they’re blacked out everywhere else, which includes cable TV and MLB.tv.