Japanese Baseball Star Shohei Ohtani Set To Play In MLB
What's So Special?
You might have heard of this product out of Japan, but have no idea what all the hype is about. Well for starters, Shohei Ohtani is just 23, but can grow to be one of the best two-way players of all time. Officially a pitcher, he's able to blast home runs like nobody's business.
At 6'4 and 213lbs, the right handed Ohtani averages a 96.2 mph fastball, and has the fastest recorded pitch by a Japanese pitcher at 102.5 mph. Not only that, but the current number 11 on the Nippon Ham Fighters in the NPB is outdoing his predecessor, Yu Darvish, in even more ways.
He's also reportedly hit several home runs of 500 feet and more. And the kicker, he's speedy as they come. Scouts have reported Ohtani's time from home plate to first base at an astonishing 3.8 seconds. That speed can work running all bases, and even in the outfield.
Only his command is an issue as his career BB/9 is 3.1. But he should improve dramatically as he enters his prime and begins to play stateside. Because of a posting agreement between the MLB and NPB, Ohtani will be playing the 2018 season in the MLB. That just leave one question...
Ohtani is under 25 and hasn't played at least 6 years of professional baseball, so is considered an amateur international free agent. The Texas Rangers first emerged as contenders simply because they had the most remaining money in their international pool money, while the Red Sox it seemed would not be able to afford it. The Yankees have deep pockets too, and Ohtani would be a great addition to their team, but it doesn't seem like Ohtani's heading there.
In fact, the East Coast seems to be off the list as potential destinations. The two-way threat has decided on a West Coast team, as it's closer to Japan and they usually have more of a Japanese population. While it's still not decided for sure, Ohtani and his agent have met with these finalists: the Rangers, Mariners, Giants, Cubs, Angels, Padres, and Dodgers. As you can see, most teams are based in the West.
Out of the finalists, the aforementioned Rangers have the biggest pool with $3.535 million, followed by the Mariners with $2.557 million, and the Los Angeles Angels with $2.315 million. If you ask us, the Seattle Mariners would be a great fit. Their starting rotation has been in decline and Ohtani could give it a great boost, along with his slugging power. The Angels would be a decent destination as well, because he'd be the instant ace in their rotation. Chances are he won't be following in Darvish's footsteps once again and won't join the Rangers.
Stats and History
In his 403 games with the Nippon Ham Fighters, Ohtani batted .286/.358/.500, slamming 48 home runs in the process. He's hit 500-footers and even blasted the ball through roof of Tokyo Dome during an international match. Even with his massive frame, his speed is being compared to Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon, two of the fastest players.
And that's just his offense. Ohtani is an even better pitcher. In 2016, as a starter, he went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA. He won the Pacific League MVP that year. Overall, he's a stunning 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA in the NPB, striking out 624 in 543 innings in 85 appearances, 82 of which were starts.
Ohtani did have surgury on his ankle in October, so we'll have to see how it affects him going forward, but this two-way player is sure to make a splash in the MLB next season, no matter which team he ends up on. The AL West will become a lot more competitive, that's for sure.
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