Shohei Otani, the 23-year-old right-handed pitcher and left-handed hitter dubbed the ‘Japanese Babe Ruth’ by US media, will head to Major League Baseball in 2018, his team Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters said Friday.

Otani hit .322 with 22 home runs and 67 runs-batted-in in 104 games and had a 1.86 earned run average and 174 strikeouts in 140 innings for the Nippon Ham Fighters last season.

He missed two months early this season and another stretch in July and August with injuries to his ankle and thigh – but has still batted .332 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs this season, according to the latest update on the team’s website.

The team “decided to post him, allowing him to pursue his dream of playing in the Major League Baseball”, Nippon Ham president Kenso Takeda told reporters.

“The sky’s the limit for Shohei Otani,” team manager Hideki Kuriyama said, adding that he expects Otani to “delight Japanese fans” with his performances in the United States.

The 6-foot-4-inch (1.93m) player, whose fastball approaches 100 mph (161 km/h), inked a one-year $2.37 million contract (Rs 15.43 crore) with the Fighters in December.

He will not become eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season, and therefore needed the team’s approval to negotiate with Major League teams.