Japanese superstar Shohei Otani will not pitch for World Baseball Classic due to a right ankle injury, Nippon Ham Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama told reporters.
The 22-year-old was expected to be one of the marquee players of the tournament. Otani is a dual-threat baseball player with a fastball that was reportedly clocked at 102 miles per hour. He finished last season in the Nippon Professional Baseball League with a 1.86 ERA and 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 140 innings pitched. He also produced a .322/.416/.588 slash line with 22 home runs in 382 plate appearances.
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It remains unclear whether Otani will head to the United States and sign with a major league team in the near future. Teams were hoping Otani would be headed to the U.S. after next season but under the new collective bargaining agreement, he may stay until he is 25 years old since the new international rules limit his earning potential.
He went viral in November after hitting a ball through the roof of the Tokyo Dome.
Otani turns 23 years old in July and at the end of 2017 will have five years of service in the NPB. He would be eligible to sign with any team as an international free agent with Japan's posting system under the previous CBA. The new CBA implements stricter guidelines with teams only able to spend $4.75 million to $5.75 million per year on international free agents or they can trade for more room that would push the limit to $8.3 million to $10 million per year. Otani is believed to be worth more and may wait with three more seasons in the NPB.