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Shohei Ohtani is a franchise-changing player. Tons of Major league clubs were bidding for the Japanese star, with the LA Angels eventually signing Ohtani. Major League Baseball hasn't seen a two-way star like Ohtani in ages. In fact, Babe Ruth was the last successful one to master his art on the mound and at the plate. It's a dicey topic. When you play 162 games in a season, and you have a guy who can bring it on the mound but also rake at the plate, how are you going to get him into the lineup on a consistent basis? Since Ohtani ended up on an American League team, he does have the possibility to DH. Ohtani hit very well in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan, compiling a .286/.358/.500 slash across five seasons for the Nippon Ham Fighters, hitting 48 homers in that span with 166 RBI's. His biggest season at the dish was in 2016 when he hit .322 with 22 bombs.
Last season he missed notable time with an ankle injury, limiting him to 65 games played in 2017. There's a big difference between the caliber of arms in Japan compared to the big leagues. Sure, he might have had some impressive numbers hitting in Japan, but he's not facing 95+ on a regular basis. The average fastball in Japan is around 90 mph, which in this day and age, is certainly not overpowering.
When it comes to Ohtani's talents on the mound, they speak for themselves. A triple-digit fastball. Quality off-speed stuff. His future in the big leagues will be on the bump.
Future Is on the Mound
The 23-year-old posted some eye-popping numbers during his tenure in Japan. Across five seasons, Ohtani compiled a 42 and 15 record with a 2.52 ERA, striking out 624 hitters in 543 innings pitched. That calculates to 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Again, as I discussed above, the caliber of hitters in Japan are also not the same as in the big leagues of course. But whether you're pitching in the big leagues or in college, you can't deny a 100 mph fastball. A heater at that speed is hard for anyone to hit, even the best big leaguers. He regularly touches triple digits, hitting as high as 102 on the radar gun. To compliment his powerful heater, Ohtani also throws a nasty splitter and very good-looking slider with tight, sharp break. With the splitter and slider, he has two quality off-speed offerings to complement the fastball.
At six foot five, Ohtani has great length and size on the mound. He has a very smooth, workable delivery. He gets good extension out front, using his whole frame very well in his delivery. Ohtani is most certainly a front of the rotation starter, which he will most likely be with the Angels. That's part of the issue when it comes to using him as a position player as well. The day after he starts on the mound, you don't want Ohtani playing in the outfield. He needs his rest. Like I said above, he could end up being a DH for the Angels. I don't see any issue with that, as long as he's getting his rest in between starts. He played outfield and served as a DH in Japan, so it's a possibility. There's no doubt that he can definitely swing the bat, but can he do it against the best arms in the world in the MLB, that's the question.
In the long run though, Ohtani has a brighter future in the big leagues on the mound. There are enough guys who can swing it in the majors. There aren't many guys who can throw 102 mph on the mound. He's more valuable to the Angels as a top of the line starter.
His command could use a little polishing, but that will come. He has all the assets needed to be a major league starter, and he will certainly be a huge part of the Angels' rotation in 2018.