WITH Spring Training just around the corner, it’s time to familiarise yourself with the most exciting prospect in the MLB. Deemed the coup of the off-season Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani has made his way to Los Angeles joining the Angels for the upcoming season on a minimum-salary deal with a $2.3 million signing bonus. The two-way star has been tabbed the ‘Japenese Babe Ruth’ and at the age of just 23, he is poised to take the league by storm.
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BEFORE making the trip to LA Ohtani made a name for himself in Japan. The two-way phenom had American baseball GM’s drooling after he dominated the NPB. His best season came in 2016 when he won Pacific League MVP honours after hitting .322 with 22 homers and went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA from the mound. Five seasons at the highest level of baseball on offer in Japan has set Ohtani up to become a household name now that he is arriving in America.
WHAT Ohtani can do in the MLB is still kind of up in the air. Injuries are a concern for the young star and we should expect the Angels to seek caution with their newest young gun. For all the good that Ohtani does with the bat, his strength for LA will likely come from his pitching. With the potential to become an ace in the MLB, Ohtani will probably only be deployed as a DH.
ONE of the reasons they will use him in that role is to limit the chances of suffering an injury in the outfield. He will still be able to have an impact on the game, but limiting his responsibilities to crushing homers and pitching will reduce the risk of their future star hurting himself. They already boast a talented outfielder in MVP favourite Mike Trout who can dominate in the field, but it would be exciting to see Ohtani make a few big plays in the field. Even if it would cause the front office staff and owners to suffer a minor heart attack every time he went for a play.
THE health of Ohtani remains the biggest question mark surrounding his ceiling. Just a few days after he was signed by the Angels it was announced that Ohtani had a low-grade sprain in the UCL of his throwing arm. It isn’t a huge injury, but if it worsens it may require Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery.
HIS arrival in Los Angeles makes things complicated for Albert Pujols. The 10x All-Star has made a career out of crushing home runs from the DH and first baseman position, currently sitting 9th all-time with 614 long bombs. As he ages it’s unlikely that Pujols will be featuring in the outfield and if Ohtani steals some of his at-bats then it could lead to a Pujols exit from LA.
FOR now though, given the fragile nature of the newest Japanese whiz kid, don’t expect to see him used to his full capacity. He will have flashes as a star on the mound, and it’s lucky he’ll crush a few homers. Don’t expect to see him become the worlds best player in 2018 though. By 2020 however, that might be a different story…
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