Shohei Ohtani

Patience is key for Shohei Ohtani

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.

Weak spring

Shohei Ohtani

Ohtani has struggled in spring training with the Angels. (Photo from DailyNews)

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

Shohei Ohtani

With Trout expected to play the full season, the Angels can stir the pot in the AL. (Photo from USA Today)

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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Ohtani

Where will Shohei Ohtani land?

Shohei Ohtani is the king of the offseason at the moment. The MLB has not seen anything like him since Babe Ruth was smacking home runs nearly a century ago. Ohtani has the potential to be a two-way star, so when he was posted, every team in the majors wanted a piece of him. Right away though, Ohtani has slashed the field down to seven teams already. Out of those seven teams, where might he sign?

The only two teams that are deeper into the mainland of the United States who still remain are the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers. The other five teams are the San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani prefers the west coast

The west coast has a much more prevalent Japanese population compared to elsewhere in the country. On top of that, it would be closest to his homeland. Ohtani has already informed 23 teams that he would not sign with them, and they almost all are outside of the west coast.

You can’t blame Ohtani for picking the California teams as well as Seattle, as he still wants to remain close to his roots and there is nothing wrong with that. The 23-year-old has the freedom to choose whatever team he wants as he is the hottest commodity this offseason. Many people thought that his preference would have to do with money or a DH, but it always came down to geography for him.

Which teams fit?

Shohei Ohtani

Dipoto and the Mariners have been working on their pitch for Ohtani all year long (Photo Courtesy of NW Sports Beat)

The DH position may be more in Ohtani’s scope now that he has narrowed down the west coast. Money is not a huge factor at this point though. Due to rules on rookie contracts, there is only so much money he can make at first. That is, he will make the maximum salary for a rookie the first three years before he is available for arbitration.

It has also been reported by the New York Times that Ohtani prefers a smaller market. Considering Los Angeles does not fit that bill, it will be unlikely he goes to the Angels or Dodgers even though he is expected to meet with both teams.

Although it has not been reported how big of a factor the DH is, it would not be wild to assume that an American League team would make much more sense for the Japanese star. That would knock out the Padres, Cubs and Giants from the Ohtani sweepstakes. The Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers would the remaining candidates.

The Mariners have a history of Japanese ballplayers playing for them. Most notably, one of the all-time baseball greats, Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro built up a real reputation for players across the pond, as if you were to combine his NPB and MLB hits, he would have the most in baseball history. Along with that, the Mariners fit the bill for being on the West Coast, more so than the Texas Rangers.

That is why the Mariners are the most likely destination for Ohtani. Seattle is not far off from being a contending team, so a spark from Ohtani could boost them into the playoffs.

How will Ohtani translate to the MLB?

Shohei Ohtani

MLB teams will try to figure a way to get Ohtani’s bat into the lineup (Photo courtesy of Kazuhiro Nogi–Getty Images)

There doesn’t seem to be much of a question that Ohtani’s pitching will translate to the United States. He has an impressive strikeout to walk ratio and has a career 2.52 ERA in his five seasons in the NPB.

Some wonder if his hitting will be at the same level in the major leagues. He has been able to hit over .300 the past two seasons, and has shown signs of power as well. It would be hard to believe him not getting steady opportunities throughout 2018 to prove his ability at the plate.

The one thing that Ohtani is not custom to is the grueling process of a 162-game season. Also, the month of spring training along with a month long playoff can be very physically demanding. Former NFL and MLB athlete, Brian Jordan, stated that playing a 162-game baseball season is one of the toughest things to do in sports.

Ohtani has not come too close to that mark, however he may not when he is playing in the majors anyway. In order to ensure he is an effective pitcher and hitter, it will be imperative that the coaching staff is able to manage his fatigue well in order to get maximum effectiveness from the star.

Overall, Ohtani could prove to be one of the best players that has come from Japan. Only time will tell if he will be able to make the jump to the majors, but signing with Seattle could give him the opportunity to showcase everything he has in a place he would be happy to be.

 

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