Shohei Otani is the next big thing in Japan. He’s still 20 years old in just his second season for the Nippon-Ham Fighters, but the buzz around the young righthander has only grown since he flirted with the idea of signing with a major league team directly out of high school.
On his second pitch of today’s game, Otani threw a 101-mph fastball (or 162 kilometers per hour) that shattered the bat of Rakuten first baseman Ginji Akaminai into three pieces for a groundout to second base. That’s the fastest pitch ever thrown by a Japanese pitcher in a regular-season game and tied with Marc Kroon for the fastest pitch ever in Nippon Professional Baseball, according to Sponichi. Otani finished the game with three strikeouts over two scoreless innings and hit 101 mph four times, with 14 of his 17 fastballs registering 99 mph or higher.
Otani has been sensational this season. His 2.61 ERA ranks sixth among qualified NPB starters, and he has 179 strikeouts with 57 walks in 155 1/3 innings. It will likely still be several years until Otani could end up coming to Major League Baseball through the posting system, but he’s already an ace in Japan that MLB scouts are tracking closely.