For the past two years, I’ve been absolutely infatuated with a baseball player known as Shohei Ohtani. Before he had even played a single MLB game, he became my favorite player. Finally, after being blocked from coming to the states in the 2017 season, he has made his way to the top league in the world, after signing with the Los Angeles Angels this past offseason, for the league minimum.
Ohtani is so promising that scouts estimate he would be worth more than $200 million, cumulatively, between now and the time he’s 30. The Angels, though, signed Ohtani at a bargain rate—the league-minimum salary of $545,000 per year, plus a one-time signing bonus of $2.3 million.
-Jeremy Venook, The Atlantic
For those of you not on the Ohtani Train (yet), I will give you a breakdown of what makes him so special.
As we see above, he does not care about money. Now, I’m not one to criticize athletes for going after big contracts, especially with all the stories surrounding pro athletes going broke soon after their retirement. Even if I don’t want to admit it, I’d probably do the same thing, because it’d allow me and my family to live a comfortable life long after my playing days.
However, it is really special to see a player come into the league, knowing he has to prove himself, and using his reputation to get things other than cash.
Balelo’s memo asks for a team to evaluate Ohtani’s talent as a pitcher and as a hitter; to explain its player development, medical training and player performance philosophies and facilities; to describe its minor league and spring training facilities; to detail resources for Ohtani’s cultural assimilation into the team’s city; to demonstrate a vision for how Ohtani could integrate into the team’s organization; and to tell Ohtani why the team is a desirable place to play.
Each team was asked to provide its answers in both languages as soon as possible. Clubs were told not to include any financial terms of a possible contract.
-Ronald Blum, AP
Ohtani chose the Angels because of their above-average facilities, and their coaching philosophies. Something else that I’m sure was a factor is that Mike Scioscia, the Angels head coach, has gone on record in saying that Ohtani will be utilized primarily as a pitcher (in a six man rotation), but will also get looks as a DH on his days off. Not all managers would be willing to do that, which would be a complete injustice to the Japanese Babe Ruth.
Now, let’s touch on that. His hitting and pitching. To sum it up for all the stat-hating fans out there, in Japan, last year, when he won the Best Nine Award for Best Pitcher and Best DH. He was 21. He is a three-time all-star, the 2016 Pacific League MVP, and has a whole slew of other hardware in his trophy case
Pretty impressive stats, but I know what you are saying: “Sean, Japanese ball isn’t nearly at the level of competition as MLB!”
You’re right, so let’s look at how major league scouts regard him:
On the 20-80 grading scale, he is a 70 grade pitcher and a 60 grade hitter. If you don’t know what that means, I recommend reading this article by Kiley McDaniel that breaks down the scouting system, which is summed up by this visual of theirs:
To really simplify it, scouts think he will be a top of the rotation starter (definitely the Angel’s ace), and a plus hitter.
To put this in perspective, only one other prospect has an overall grade above 60, and that is Gleyber Torres of the Yankees, who has a 65. That means Ohtani’s worse aspect of baseball (offense) is better than almost any other prospect in baseball.
One more thing that is absolutely insane to me. Ohtani is ranked #1 in pitching prospects (duh) and #4 in all outfield prospects. He is above Austin Meadows, The Pirates #1 overall prospect!
Finally, let’s talk about his fastball. It is a thing of beauty.
It is an 80 grade pitch that tops out at about 101 mph, much like Luis Severino. 80 grade anything is extremely rare. Tyler Kepner wrote a great article for the New York Times on the rarity of the perfect 80, for those interested.
The only downside of having such a dominant pitch is that batters come to expect it. But oh wait he also has a filthy slider and a table-action 12-6 curve because of course he does. Just look at this pitch from a few days ago.
Ohtani, who, remember, is 23 years old, is just unfair. I am unbelievably excited to see what he does at the highest level of baseball. Jerry Dipoto, Mariners gm, put it well:
“I’ve seen players hit a ball 500 feet and players throw a ball 100 mph. I’ve just never seen one player do both,”
-Jerry Dipoto, on Shohei Ohtani