Japan’s Shohei Otani has yet to sign with a major league team, but that hasn’t stopped some fans and talent evaluators from salivating at his seemingly unlimited potential.
Heralded as “the next Babe Ruth” because of his ability to hit for power and throw 100 mph fastballs, the 22-year-old returned to the lineup after dealing with a leg injury for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) Pacific League on Tuesday night.
In the eighth inning, Otani smashed a hanging breaking ball over the fence at Obihiro Stadium for his first homer since April 5, and it was an absolute bomb.
Shohei Ohtani did unspeakable things to a baseball. It was his first HR after coming back from leg injury https://t.co/gmxdIsLyBi
— Kazuto Yamazaki (@Kazuto_Yamazaki) July 26, 2017
Otani, who reportedly is planning to leave Japan to play in the majors after this season, hit .322 with 22 home runs in 104 games for the Fighters last season while also pitching to a 1.86 ERA in 140 innings.
“We discussed the possibility of me going,” Otani said back in April. ” … The club will respect my wishes whenever I decide I want to go.”
The dual threat is under contract in Japan through the 2021 season so the posting system would have to be used before he could come stateside and enter free agency.
If and when Otani becomes available to major league teams, he is sure to garner a lot of interest from around the league.