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The New York Yankees Should Pursue Japanese Hurler Shohei Otani

Shohei Otani is a stud from Japan who the New York Yankees should definitely have on their radar during this year’s offseason. 

Yet another hurler from Japan is taking the spotlight and this time, his name is Shohei Otani.

Why is he under the spotlight? Well, on Tuesday, the 22-year old broke his personal record and threw the fastest pitch in Japanese baseball history.

According to CBS Sports, the fastball was heaved at 164-KPH which translates to 101.9 MPH. Otani held the previous record with a 101-MPH pitch he threw earlier in the season.

He has more than just his fastball, though.

Otani’s arsenal includes a high-80’s splitter, an interesting forkball, a low-80’s slider, and even a changeup.

Beyond the Box Score broke down his mechanics earlier in the year, and they are downright eminent.

“Mechanically, Otani is nothing short of brilliant. His motion contains the standard balance of many Japanese pitchers but also features an efficient arm path and power from an unlikely source. We will begin at maximum leg lift, where Otani is calm and balanced over his back foot. The balance at this position comes at the expense of early momentum, but Otani quickly makes up for that by quickly driving his hips towards home plate with a powerful back leg.” – Beyond the Box Score 

Otani is in his fourth year as a member of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and he has maintained a 2.12 ERA across 19 games while striking out 151 batters in 123 innings. That is a K/9 rate of 11.

In 78 career games (75 starts), the righty is 37-13 with a 2.73 ERA with a 3.2 strikeout to walk rate, a WHIP of 1.085, and just four home run surrendered in 500.2 innings (0.3 HR/9).

FanGraphs even projects him to be the eighth-best pitcher in the world using a fixed ERA projecting scale. That’s amazing in itself, but what if you were to discover that this youngster can absolutely rake, as well?

In 292 at-bats this season, Otani owns a slash line of .322/.420/.603 with 22 home runs and an OPS of 1.023.

According to DeadSpin, Otani is an incredibly impeccable hitter with legit opposite field power. This season, he has only struck out 88 times compared to 50 walks drawn.

Amazingly, he also won the Japanese home run derby this year and plays the role of designated hitter during the days he is not scheduled to pitch.

He’s easily the most interesting baseball player in the world, so should the Yankees pursue him?

On one hand, you have a leg up with the signing of Masahiro Tanaka and Hideki Matsui, who were undoubtedly the most prominent players in Japan at the time they were there.

To add to that, he is not only the best pitcher in his native country but the best hitter as well. That’s like saying he’s the Bryce Harper and Jake Arrieta of Japan.

Now, Otani refuses to come to the United States unless his uniqueness will come with him. Now, no one knows when or if the Nippon Ham Fighters (what a name, by the way) will make Otani available, but if they do the Yankees should invest in that request.

Why? Because he is unique. He brings something different to the table. In fact, recent baseball memory hasn’t experienced a player who could pitch every five days and DH in between.

Think about it. The Yankees signing a player that is irrationally potent on both sides of the field. With their questions in the rotations, this signing solves that. With their offense that ranks 23 in runs scored, this signing could influence that in a positive way.

Just because this kind of athlete is unprecedented, does not mean a team like New York shouldn’t spend big bucks on him.

Point to failed Japanese athletes all you want ( a la Kei Igawa), but if Otani keeps these kinds of numbers up, you better bet a team will bulge. Why not the Bronx Bombers.

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Christian Kouroupakis covers the New York Yankees for ESNY. Interact with him and view his daily work by “liking” his facebook page and follow him on Twitter. All statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Don’t hesitate to shoot him an email with any questions, criticisms, or concerns.