Shohei Ohtani: What Now?

How confused is everybody right now? The Shohei Ohtani timeline has been insane and he only signed in early December.

  • He signs – We expect him to be the Japanese Babe Ruth
  • Spring Training – Baseball Minds go insane and say he should be in AAA
  • Opening Week – He shuts everybody up and people are back on the Ohtani Train.

The Los Angeles Angels won the Ohtani Sweepstakes against teams like the Padres, Mariners and Rangers, among others. There was an instant buzz around the Angels, finally making a move to not waste Mike Trout’s prime and Ohtani was “the missing piece.” What is even crazier about the Angels actually landing him is that he came over early and will only make Major League minimum to start which allowed them to sign players like Zack Cozart, Ian Kinsler and extend Justin Upton.

So what does the “Japanese Babe Ruth” do in Spring Training?

PITCHING: 2.2 Innings Pitched, 9 Hits, 8 Earned Runs, 3 Homeruns Allowed, and 2 BB. Thats good enough for a 27.00 ERA and a 4.12 WHIP (Vomitted typing this)
BATTING: 4-32 and 3 BB. A .125 Average and a .347 OPS. (See previous parentheses)

He was literally “The Puppy Who Lost His Way” from Happy Gilmore. So how in the hell did we see such a drastic turnaround from Spring to his first week in the Majors? He has gone from having experts saying “He should be in AAA working out the kinks and working on his mechanics” to “If this guy continues, he’ll make the All Star Game and compete for the MVP.”  WHAT?!?!

To me, I never believed that Spring Training was a true indicator of how a guy will perform in the regular season. Ohtani is a great talent, there is no denying that. For him, the Spring WAS the chance to work out kinks and get used to Major League pitching and hitting and it didn’t go well. His first game as a DH, he went 1-5 with an RBI Single and a K. Didn’t embarrass himself or wow us. The next time we saw him he earned a Quality Start, 6 K’s and a win. A solid effort but no Cy Young performance. His last two games hitting, he is 5-9 with 2 HR and 4 RBI. His K Rate isn’t too alarming, just 3 over 14 ABs. The biggest thing we have seen in Ohtani’s career happened Wednesday afternoon when he smoked a 2 run shot off of a Cy Young Candidate, Corey Kluber, to dead centerfield. Our first “Wow, he can really do this” moment.

So the big question for baseball fans now is, “What can we realistically expect from Shohei Ohtani moving forward?”
Honestly, it is by far the best story in baseball so far. It’s great to see, it’s going to sell tickets and produce viewers not only in America, but overseas in Japan, as well. It’s what the league needs. If I had to guess how he pans out, I’d say “please don’t make me guess” but I think it will go better than people thought during Spring Training.

Keep these numbers in mind – Through his first week, he has:

Thrown an average Fastball of 97.4mph (Luis Severino 97.6)
Reached 99.6mph (Luis Severino 100.2)
Hit a ball 112.8mph (Giancarlo Stanton 117.9)
Hit a ball 400′ off a Cy Young Pitcher
Ran an elite 29.8 ft/sec (Billy Hamilton 30.1)

All of those numbers line up with one of the top pitchers in the AL, the best Homerun hitter in the AL and the fastest guy in the MLB. Scary.

PITCHING: He will go through some command issues, walk guys, give up homeruns and strike out a ton of guys.
Prediction: 11-7, 3.90ERA, 140IP, 155K, 18HR, 1.35WHIP
BATTING: Similar to Pitching, he will go through growing pains. He is going to strike out a good amount and I think he pans out to be a doubles hitter.
Prediction: 420AB, .270AVG, 17HR, 60RBI, .750OPS, 110K

Does that scream MVP? Maybe not, but that shot to CF against Kluber showed us he can be a force moving forward. His numbers by themselves aren’t MVP worthy but nobody else can do both and if that WAR can get up near 7-8, are we crazy to think he could contend? As for Rookie of the year, unless a pitcher or hitter in the AL really goes off, I would think, based off what we’ve seen, he would be the favorite to win it. He could also fall flat and go through MAJOR growing pains, needs to go to the minors and work things out and doesn’t make a huge impact this season. Going to the minors would NOT be a bad thing. Just because he was a sensation in Japan doesn’t mean he will come over and tear it up right away. Not everyone is Ichiro. People need to remember he is 23 and still a “prospect.” One of the most refreshing things about watching Ohtani play is that it looks like he genuinely has fun, and he didn’t come over here for the money.

To conclude, it’s difficult to say where his season/career goes but one thing is for sure, his skill set is there. It’s the adjustment to the Majors that will be his biggest test. I am excited to see what happens with him, it will be a blast to track all season. #LTBU

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