TOKYO Japanese high school pitching sensation Shohei Otani has triggered a bidding war among Major League Baseball clubs by deciding to play in the United States.
The 18-year-old, who boasts a 160kph fastball, is set to become the first potential top pick in the Japanese draft to make the jump directly from high school to MLB.
The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers are among eight MLB clubs leading the chase to sign Otani, Japanese media reported on Monday.
The 1.93-metre Otani had been expected to go in the first round of Thursday's amateur draft after meeting officials from Japan's Nippon Ham Fighters and Rakuten Eagles.
"I agonised over the decision," said the right-hander. "But I have decided to play in America. It's been my dream to play in the majors since I started school.
"I want to play over there as early as possible. I will learn the hard way. I understand the risks. It's not about the money. It's about following my dream."
Boston's Junichi Tazawa was the first amateur blue chip to directly sign with a major league team in 2008, when he left his corporate league team to play for the Red Sox.
(Reporting by Alastair Himmer; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)