THE TALON

Shohei Ohtani: Japan’s Two-Way Phenom

Shohei Ohtani, regarded as the Japanese Babe Ruth, brings both the ability to pitch and hit to the Los Angeles Angels Organization

Ohtani+in+his+new+Angels+Uniform
Ohtani in his new Angels Uniform

Ohtani in his new Angels Uniform

Ohtani in his new Angels Uniform

Nate Shirley, Staff Writer

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The crown jewel of Japanese Baseball has found a new home in Los Angeles. Shohei Ohtani has been touted at the Japanese Babe Ruth and is the best prospect to come out of the Nippon Professional League in Japan since the legend Ichiro Suzuki. What makes Ohatani such a coveted prospect is not only his ability to pitch and possibly become a perennial ace to build a rotation around, but he is also a power hitter. He has broken the stigma that pitchers cannot hit and hopes to both pitch and be a designated hitter in his time in the big leagues. While past attempts to be successful on both the rubber and at the plate have been mostly underwhelming, Ohtani and the Angels both believe that he has the talent and work-ethic to be able to accomplish this.

Recent attempts at becoming a two-way player (player that can pitch and also has a position in the daily lineup) have not yielded the desired results. Christian Bethancourt for example attempted to become a relief pitcher for the Padres as well as their daily catcher after their organization witnessed his incredible arm strength. While he had the arm to be a pitcher, he was unable to handle the workload of both jobs. The result was a drop in batting average and defensive play at catcher as well as inconsistency at the reliever position. The Padres quickly saw that Bethancourt would be best utilized as the catcher that he had been before the attempt and ended the experiment.

Ohtani’s value as both a pitcher and hitter make him one of the most intriguing rookies to watch this season”

While Ohtani’s situation is different from Bethancourt’s in that he will not play a position, the fatigue of being a daily designated hitter as well as a starting pitcher will be tough for Ohtani to deal with. While he has been able to do this in Japan, Major League Baseball is a whole different ballgame. So far the transition for Ohtani has not been easy. He has an abysmal spring training, finishing with an ERA of 27.00 and a batting average of .107. He also struck out 9 times at the plate and was only able to stike out five batters during his two appearances. Throughout his struggles the Angels have supported Ohtani and have backed their words with action by including him on their opening day roster. Ohtani will begin the season in the Majors without Minor League experience. It remains to be seen how this two-way experiment will play out.

Ohtani is attempting to be the first of a new breed of two-way baseball players, as several of the top prospects of next year’s MLB draft desire to follow in his footsteps. The Japanese Babe Ruth will attempt to rebound from his dreadful spring training and start of his career with a solid rookie season for the Angels. Ohtani’s value as both a pitcher and hitter make him one of the most intriguing rookies to watch this season. The Angels won the bidding war for Ohtani’s services and his developement could be crucial to their success. If Ohtani developes into a star, his pairing with arguably the best player currently in the league, outfielder Mike Trout, will make the Angels serious contenders this upcoming postseason. Whatever happens with Ohtani, this experiment will be an interesting one and could set the stage for future talents to follow his blueprint.

 

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