Shohei Otani is an intriguing amateur name who has recently popped up on teams radars after flashing outstanding tools in the Japanese national high-school tournament, Koshien. He's 6'4 190 and was clocked at 99MPH in the Koshien tourament. His fastball comfortably sits in the 93-97 range according to Don Olsen at Bullpen Banter (http://bullpenbanter.com/the-next-yu-darvish/). If Otani had attended an American high-school this year, with his size and current fastball velocity, he would have been a sure fire top 10 pick in the Rule IV amateur draft. He appears to be aware of this and has publically stated he is considering the option of removing himself from the NPB draft and signing with an MLB team.
The Dodgers have shown a great deal of interest in Otani, reportedly sending their Asst GM Logan White to his school in Japan to meet with him. The Dodgers have always been active in the international market so this shouldn't be surprising. What is surprising is how much of their International Free Agent Bonus pool from 2012 the Dodgers have retained, despite signing Cuban Yasiel Puig to a $42 million dollar contract earlier in the season. They snuck the deal in right before the July 2nd deadline and have remained relatively quiet on the international front since then. The Dodgers are one of the few teams to likely have most of their $2.9 million dollar bonus budget still available to spend. The Astros share this fairly exclusive distinction with the Dodgers, and are theoretically one of the very few organizations that could challenge Los Angeles for Otani's services.
All year I've found it peculiar Luhnow wasn't more active in the July 2nd market something he supposedly had a big hand in during his tenure with St. Louis. Often I wondered if he didn't plan on saving the limited resources to make a splash in the offseason international free agent market. Simply not using the 2.9 million just doesnt seem congruent with the increased willingness the new front office has shown to invest in developing talent at the lower levels.
There's limited footage and information available on Otani, but from what I've seen he certainly seems like a top prospect type of amateur. I think it goes without saying that any team would love to add a 6'4 projectable righty who is already running it up to 99 Mph with his fastball. The Astros have done an excellent job adding depth to this system this year, but its no secret the organization still lacks top level prospects. If another MLB team is able to add this young high-ceiling prospect, and the Astros aren't even mentioned as having been involved, I believe the front office should feel like they have to explain why not.
I'd love to hear some of the TCB'ers opinions on this. Do you believe $2.9 is too significant an amount to spend just for the sake of not letting it go to waste? Would you be skeptical of signing a Japanese amateur considering the lack of precedent?