Japanese pitcher Shohei Otani might sign with a Major League team at some point, but it won't happen this year. The 18-year-old right-hander announced on Sunday that he will start his professional career with Japan's Nippon Ham Fighters.
At 6-foot-4 and with a fastball nearing 100 mph, Otani had garnered serious interest from MLB clubs, including the Dodgers. A source told the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 3 that the Dodgers would be "shocked" if Otani signed with another organization -- if he left Japan, that is.
Otani originally expressed strong interest in taking his career to the U.S., but Nippon still selected him in the first round of the Japanese amateur draft in October. The club had until March to sign Otani, who would have needed to wait until April to ink a deal with an MLB organization.
Despite his deal with the Fighters, Otani said Sunday he still plans on a Major League future.
"I would eventually like to go to the Major Leagues," he told nikkansports.com, in comments translated by the Los Angeles Times. "It's a place I admire. I would like the Fighters to teach me the road to get there."
Andrew Simon is a contributor to MLB.com.