By: Abel Figueroa (@abel_figgy)
Sho(w)time has returned to Southern California.
However, this time it’s not on a basketball court. It’s on a baseball field. It’s on the mound. It’s at the plate. Whenever Shohei Ohtani takes the field, it’s appointment viewing television.
The MLB’s brightest new star has experienced a meteoric rise to superstardom and all it took was a week and a half. The most coveted player last winter has already shown why all 30 teams were vying for his talents. Ohtani immediately became the #1 prospect in all of Major League Baseball upon signing with the Angels. That type of talent does not come around often.
Roughly two weeks into his MLB career, Ohtani has already hit three home runs, slashed .364/.417/.773, and even took a perfect game into the 7th inning in his last start against the A’s. His first start of the season was marred by just one mistake against Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman, which resulted in a three-run home run. Ohtani has been lights out in both starts, posting a 12.9 K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings pitched).
Of course, it is the middle of April and the season is still in its infancy. However, there is simply no downplaying what Ohtani has been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. Even if Ohtani does not maintain this type of performance throughout the entire season, which is likely, he has at the very least shown the entire world that his potential and talent are astronomical.
The most impressive thing about Ohtani’s dominance is that he is only 23. He is not even close to entering his athletic prime (typically ages 28-32 in baseball), yet he is already looking like a perennial all-star. The prospect that such a talented young player can still benefit from proper development should excite everyone in the baseball world.
The Japanese phenom is also incredibly cheap. Ohtani is only going to cost the Angels the major league minimum, $545,000, for the next three years. Adding an elite pitching and hitting prospect for that figure is unfathomable. The future for Ohtani looks just as bright as it did for Bryce Harper and Mike Trout when they burst onto the scene.
Again, it is only April and everyone may be riding on the Ohtani express right now, but it will be quite interesting to see if the league finds a hole in Ohtani’s game, specifically at the plate. This tends to happen with some of the league’s best young hitters. It happened last year to Cody Bellinger, who found himself swinging over the top of just about any type of breaking pitch that was low and inside. The same happened to Aaron Judge during the second half of last season. However, talent usually always wins out. Great hitters make adjustments when the league “catches up with them,” and it will be interesting to see if Ohtani will be forced to make these adjustments at any point this season.
Ohtani the pitcher was always more of a sure thing than Ohtani the hitter. Quite a few people were skeptical that Ohtani could successfully hit in the majors, myself included. Ohtani was thought of by some as a surefire pitching prospect, while whatever he produced at the plate would be gravy. So far though, Ohtani has shown that he is legit both on the mound and in the batter’s box.
On the mound Ohtani is a force, and it looks like he will be for a long time to come. Anyone with that type of electric stuff is a threat to throw a no-hitter just about every time they step on the mound. Ohtani’s ability to not only stun the hitter with incredible breaking pitches but also generate swings and misses is reminiscent of what Yu Darvish accomplished when he first came into the league. His repertoire includes a devastating splitter, a triple-digit fastball, and curves and sliders that make you think he’s throwing a wiffle ball. Ohtani is a must watch on the mound.
It’s hard not to hop on the Ohtani hype train. Everyone knows that baseball season is an incredibly long and demanding campaign. This will make the Angels usage of Shohei Ohtani very intriguing to monitor. Ohtani is already asking for more playing time, which he deserves, but it remains to be seen if he can successfully pull off his two-way play at a high level for the entirety of the season. Will Ohtani challenge the rest of the league not only for Rookie of The Year, but for the Cy Young and MVP awards as well? Or will Ohtani stumble on his ambitions of achieving something that hasn’t been attempted in almost a century? Whatever happens, it’s a captivating storyline, and the entire baseball and sports world surely can’t wait to watch it unfold.