The most exciting young pitcher in Japan had his most dominant outing of the season today.
Nippon-Ham Fighters righthander Shohei Otani struck out 16 batters without walking anyone in a 2-1 complete-game victory over Rakuten. Otani, who turned 20 on Saturday, allowed just four hits, sat in the mid-90s and touched 99 mph on his final pitch of the game for a strikeout.
At 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, Otani was a star pitcher as a senior in high school two years ago, when he vacillated with the idea of signing with a major league team upon graduation, which would have been a rare move for a Japanese prep player. Instead he stayed in Japan, and after a steady rookie year last season, Otani has emerged as one of the top pitchers in Nippon Professional Baseball this year. In 92 innings, Otani ranks second in the Pacific League in ERA (2.35) and strikeouts (111) with just 22 walks.
If Otani were in the United States, he would rank among the game’s top pitching prospects. He’s still several years away from possibly coming to MLB through the posting system, but teams are keeping a close eye on his progress.