The Orioles have scouted Shohei Otani, the Japanese high-school right-hander who was drafted by the Nippon-Ham Fighters of Japan’s professional baseball league this week. Otani made it known he’d like to play in the United States, and teams here could still attempt to sign him.
No word on exactly what the Orioles thought of him, but apparently he has a pretty impressive arsenal.
The problem is it’s protocol to avoid players who have allegiances with Japanese teams. So although the Orioles wouldn’t be doing anything wrong if they pursued Otani, it would be frowned upon in Japanese baseball circles. And with the Orioles ruffling feathers in Korea last year when they signed a high-schooler, you’d think they’d probably prefer not to go that route again.
That said, one scout told me Otani hit 99 mph with his fastball and also has a plus curve. If he were graduating from an American high school this year, the 18-year-old would likely be a Top 5 pick in the June draft, the scout said.
It will be interesting to see if any MLB team bucks protocol – and surpasses the new international bonus pool – to take a chance on Otani now. Other teams reportedly interested include the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers.
Fellow Japanese high-school right-hander Shintaro Fujinami, who is also highly coveted, was drafted and is expected to play in Japan, according to Baseball America.
Showalter set to host 5K
Orioles manager Buck Showalter and his wife, Angela, are hosting their annual KidsPeace Trick-or-Trot 5K on Saturday. Showalter -- Mr. that is -- will not be running. He’s hobbling and rehabbing right now after partial knee replacement last week.
Showalter said the knee pain didn’t stop him from running out to the field to argue calls. Going back to the dugout when the adrenaline wore off wasn’t real comfortable, though.
Hale still a candidate?
Showalter’s coaching staff appears set – for now. With some managerial jobs still open, the Orioles aren’t writing it in ink just yet.
Third-base coach DeMarlo Hale, for instance, could still be in play – perhaps in Toronto – after interviewing for the Red Sox job that ultimately went to the Blue Jays' John Farrell.
And based on the job Ron Johnson did at Triple-A Norfolk this year, some in the organization wouldn’t be shocked if another team inquires about bringing the long-time baseball man back to the majors as a coach.
There also was some talk that maybe bullpen coach Bill Castro could be utilized in more of an international role for the Orioles’ organization, but the sense is he will be staying in the same position for 2013.
The Orioles now officially have 14 players eligible for arbitration. As expected, pitchers Brian Matusz and Troy Patton secured Super 2 status, meaning they will get four years of arbitration instead of the normal three due to their service time.
The Orioles will have 15 arbitration eligible players if they decline the $11 million option on Mark Reynolds contract; he would be in his final year of arbitration this winter.
Some of those 15 could be non-tendered, however.