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.
Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett can become a free agent after the 2019 season. He has become one of baseball’s better second basemen since the Reds claimed him off waivers from the Brewers in March 2017. Over the last two years, he has hit 50 homers with an .859 OPS. The only second basemen with a better OPS (min. 700 plate appearances) since the start off the 2017 season are José Altuve (.900) and Daniel Murphy (.876).
Gennett is upset the Reds haven’t been in contact with him to discuss a contract extension, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Gennett said, “We’ve definitely opened it up. They know I want to play here. They know I enjoy playing on this team. I enjoy the fans. I enjoy the coaching staff. I enjoy my teammates. They know all that. There’s nothing else to tell them at this point. It’s waiting for them to come back, which they have not.” He added, “(We’ve) heard absolutely nothing. Zero.”
As Fay points out, Gennett was born in Cincinnati and grew up a Reds fan, so this is a cinch for the club if it makes any effort. The Reds presently have just $58 million in 25-man roster obligations for the 2020 season.