Opening Day is coming up this week, and teams are finalizing their rosters for the beginning of the season. One of the largest stories of the winter was Shohei Ohtani’s decision to play in the United States for the Los Angeles Angels. With his top-end ability on the mound plus his bat, the Japanese rookie has a shot at making a splash in California.
Let us not forget though who Ohtani will be playing against. He is just 23 years old and has grown up playing in the NPB, which is quite different than Major League Baseball. Although spring training is just training, it may be a sign that shows Ohtani is not quite ready to make the impact he is capable of.
Ohtani did not get the amount of opportunities to play this spring that we might have liked to see. He only amassed 28 at-bats along with 2.2 innings pitched. In the 28 at-bats, Ohtani managed just three hits. In those 2.2 innings he pitched, he allowed three home runs, which led to eight total earned runs.
While this small sample size may not be indicative of his potential, it may show that the Angels should be patient with their young star.
Los Angeles did send Ohtani out to play against the Angels affiliates. While they wanted him to hit the 85-pitch mark, he could not even get up to 50. Seeing that he couldn’t even reach that point, there is not much hope in Ohtani making a start early in this season.
We will see how the Angels work Ohtani into the league, but it may not be as soon as we would like to see.
Could Triple-A be a solution?
Ohtani does have half a decade worth of experience against professional baseball players in Japan. He may not be ready for the major league level in baseball yet though.
A viable option would be to send Ohtani to the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees. This would give Ohtani more game time against what is still one of the best baseball leagues in the world, while not putting the same kind of pressure on him to be an All-Star quite yet.
While this may not be the most exciting path for baseball fans who are anxious to see what this kid can do, it may be what is in the Angels’ best interest in order to capitalize on their potential. With the Angels having the core of their roster in tact for the coming years, they can afford to let Ohtani develop in a smaller stage.
What to expect for 2018
The wise move for the Angles would be to send Ohtani down to the minors for the time being. Even if it means just seven or eight starts at the lower level, it could still have a significant impact on his growth as a player.
While it may not be a popular move for the Angels to avoid showcasing the young star, it may be necessary. Who knows if the hype around this kid will actually die down, even if his debut is delayed.
It would be very reasonable to see Ohtani making his debut closer to the All-Star break. It may depend largely on whether or not the Angels are in a pennant race with the Astros and Yankees. With the bevy of moves they have made this past year, it would not be that outlandish to think the Angels have some sort of shock. The issue for them at the moment is their pitching, and if Ohtani begins to prove himself in Salt Lake, it could make sense for him to be brought back up for that race.
For the time being though, it would be wise on the Angels’ part to send Ohtani down to Triple-A.
Featured image from SportMax
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