Japan High School Baseball Prodigy Expected to Leave Homeland In Favor Of U.S.
Japanese baseball officials are "concerned about a potential exodus of premier talent" to the MLB after high school pitching prospect Shohei Otani revealed his decision Sunday to forgo a career at home in favor of playing in the U.S., according to KYODO. Nippon Professional Baseball Yomiuri Giants President Tsunekazu Momoi said, "There is a clear and present danger of talent being hollowed out of our game." Otani's decision came as "something of a shock" to NPB teams, which were "planning to select him in the first round of Thursday's amateur draft." Otani will be the first potential No. 1 pick to go straight from a Japanese high school to the U.S. Otani has met with representatives from the MLB Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and L.A. Dodgers. Several other MLB teams are "also interested." Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks Head of Development Shigeru Ishiwata said, "We've got to head back to the drawing board" (KYODO, 10/23).
MONEY TALKS: The DAILY YOMIURI wrote that "a major reason for Japanese baseball talent opting for an MLB career is money." In '09, the Washington Nationals gave pitcher Stephen Strasburg an MLB record four-year contract worth $15.1M. In contrast, NPB in '07 set the cap on a rookie's contract at 100M yen ($1.3M), with incentives up to 50% of the total contract. Some observers have argued that if an MLB team offers a contract of more than 100M yen to a player, Japanese teams "should offer, in exceptional cases, contracts exceeding this" (DAILY YOMIURI, 10/23).