* Yes, Shohei Otani was drafted first overall in the NPB draft. I’ve seen some misconceptions about what that means, so let’s clear that up right now. Nippon Ham has the exclusive Japanese negotiating rights with Otani through the end of March, but it does not mean he can’t speak to MLB clubs until that period has ended. He can still sign with an MLB team, and all it’ll mean is that the already-tenuous relationship between MLB & NPB will take another hit, but it won’t violate a specific rule or written agreement. It’s also worth noting that Nippon Ham could have selected him not in hopes of convincing him to stay, but to then post him in hopes of getting a payment from an American team. That might delay Otani’s arrival in America, but then again he was almost certainly going to pitch in short-season ball in 2013 at best.
* Otani isn’t the only Japanese target the Dodgers have in mind. Dylan Hernandez reports that the team also has interest in 32-year-old righty reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, who has been with the Hanshin Tigers since 2000. Fujikawa has completed his contract and would be available without a posting fee, similar to when the Dodgers signed Hiroki Kuroda prior to 2008, and has been one of the most dominating closers in Japan for years, even being referred to as “Japan’s Mariano Rivera“. No, Japan isn’t MLB, but when you see season K/9 marks like 13.84, 13.42, and 13.55 with low walk rates you take notice. Fujikawa is still pitching for Hanshin this season, but is expected to jump to America for 2013.
Last week, Mets blog Amazin’ Avenue unearthed this interesting fact about Fujikawa:
In 2006, a scientific study on baseball was done by a TV station in Japan, and Fujikawa took part. His four-seam fastball was captured by slow motion cameras, which revealed that it rotated 45 times per second — eight more times than the average four-seam fastball. The cameras also found the spin axis of his fastball was tilted 5 degrees relative to its trajectory, a stark contrast to the average fastball, which the study found to spin on a 30 degrees relative to its trajectory. According to the Magnus Effect, the faster an object spins and the less it is tilted about its vertical axis, the more lift is created. The “rising” effect of Fujikawa’s fastball hampers batters.
Then again, his fastball velocity has been declining as he ages. An interesting gamble, depending on the price.
* Another well-respected international scout joins the organization. Ben Badler of Baseball America has the news…
The Dodgers have hired Patrick Guerrero as their Latin American coordinator, according to a baseball source.
Guerrero, who lives in the Dominican Republic, will run the organization’s scouting throughout Latin America. The Mariners had fired Guerrero as their Latin American coordinator earlier this month at the same time they announced that Bob Engle, their vice president of international scouting, had decided to leave the organization. Seattle’s decision to fire Guerrero, according to Baseball America’s sources, was made above Engle, an unusual move for a Latin American scout. Both Guerrero and Engle had been with the Mariners since 2000.
The Dodgers are still deciding whether to bring in someone else to serve as an international scouting director.
Guerrero helped the Mariners sign Michael Pineda, has been referred to as one of “the most high profile” scouts in the Dominican, and is actually named after former GM Pat Gillick, under whom his father worked in Toronto.