Shohei Otani fits St. Louis Cardinals' profile, but is the interest there?

Chung Sung-Jun

The St. Louis Cardinals haven't come up in talks about Japanese right-hander Shohei Otani, but their unconventional international and amateur proclivities make them a dark-horse fit.

The St. Louis Cardinals have not been connected to flame-throwing Japanese high-schooler Shohei Otani—not even a little. They haven't signed a Japanese player since getting in on the ground floor with So Taguchi back in 2002. But their unconventional draft style and recent history of international prospect bids means they shouldn't be counted out until they do it themselves.

Getting there from never-connected requires breaking Otani down to his component parts. Hard-throwing, raw right-handers? Shelby Miller, Tyrell Jenkins, and Carlos Martinez, three of their top prospects, all fit the profile. Unconventional draft style? Last year, the Cardinals drafted a series of low-bonus college seniors in the first round for the purposes of freeing up money for high-upside picks like Carson Kelly and Max Foody.

International prospects? Carlos Martinez got a seven-figure bonus, but the Cardinals' biggest splash on the international market never quite worked out. In 2009 they signed Wagner Mateo, the biggest name in the market, for $3.1 million. That contract was voided later in the year, though, after it came out that he was dealing with a degenerative vision problem.

So the Cardinals have shown interest in this class of player, and a willingness to pay big money for top talents. But now that Otani's been drafted by the Nippon Ham Fighters, god bless them, we might not have a resolution to this drama until next season.

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