American League, baseball, designated hitter, Japan, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Major League Baseball, National League, Nippon Ham Fighters, Nippon Professional Baseball, Seattle Mariners, Shohei Ohtani
The young man from Oshu, Japan who’s projected to be Major League Baseball’s next superstar. Photo courtesy of chron.com
He’s 6’4″, just under 190 pounds, and turned a mere 23 years old last July.
It’s said that he has an arm like Nolan Ryan’s and a bat like Josh Gibson’s, hitting as much as 102 miles an hour on the mound while crushing home runs on a regular basis.
During his five years with Japan’s Nippon Ham Fighters, he sported a 2.52 ERA as a starting pitcher while hitting as many as 22 home runs in 104 games in 2016.
Speaking of 2016, this young man has a ridiculous season, delivering a minuscule 1.86 ERA on a 10-4 record, striking out 174 batter in 140 innings.
All while batting .322 with those 22 homers as he played the outfield on the days he didn’t pitch.
The last player who was so successful in both aspects of baseball was a guy who folks may be familiar with – a fellow named Babe Ruth, who was one of the top left-handed pitchers in the American League for the Boston Red Sox before he went to the New York Yankees in 1920 and became such a mythical legend with the bat.
And as of a few days ago, Shohei Ohtani – a player who more or less everyone is projecting to be baseball’s next superstar – is available to this country’s thirty major league clubs.
Actually, only seven teams are still being considered as Ohtani turned down the Yankees and the New York Mets among others.
SoCal’s two baseball clubs, Orange County’s Angels and the defending National League champion Dodgers are among the seven teams that Ohtani is still interested in playing for; he’s scheduled to meet with officials of both teams this week.
This is a guy who’s considered so special, he could turn whoever gets him into an instant World Series contender (or the overwhelming favorite to win it in the Dodgers’ case).
Because of a guy named Albert Pujols already entrenched as the Angels’ DH, I don’t expect Ohtani to be playing here at Angel Stadium next season. Photo courtesy of yesterdaysgame.net
So which team do I see Ohtani going to?
First of all, it needs to be kept in mind that Ohtani has made it crystal clear that he intends to be a pitcher and a position player in “The Show”, rather than play once every five days as a starter.
Which is why while I would be happily surprised if he does so, I don’t expect him to be wearing a Dodger uniform when Spring Training opens in mid-February – or any National League team for that matter.
I predict that Ohtani will be in the American League, for one simple reason: the Designated Hitter.
Being a DH will allow him to hit while not on the mound, and allow whichever team gets him to not worry about Ohtani overusing or injuring his arm while making throws from the outfield.
If he were to join a National League team, in my view it would be too complicated and difficult to get Ohtani at-bats when not pitching as assuming he’s a starter, he’d be either resting his arm, or doing bullpen work between his starts.
As for which team I see Ohtani on,
I’m sorry to disappoint you, Angel fans, but I don’t think he’ll be in Anaheim for (again) one reason:
Even though they can certainly use his pitching services as that staff has been a disaster due to it being a MASH unit with so many injuries, your Angels already have a designated hitter, a future Hall-of-Famer named Albert Pujols.
The team that I see Shohei Ohtani playing for (drum roll, please)…
The Seattle Mariners
He would fit in perfectly at Safeco Field, what with the Mariners not doing so well in recent seasons.
He could easily be the regular DH as they don’t really have one the way the Angels do with Pujols.
He would be a perfect complement to “King Felix”, ace Felix Hernandez.
And it is not like the Mariners don’t have experience with players coming over from Japan and becoming stars, as back in 2001 a guy named Ichiro Suzuki joined the Mariners from the Orix Blue Wave and over the next twelve years proceeded to become – along with Ken Griffey, Jr. – the best player in the history of that franchise.
Indeed, with his 4,358 hits in Japan and in MLB combined – more than anyone who has ever played the game, including Pete Rose – which includes having over 3,000 hits in the majors alone, Ichiro is an etched-in-stone lock for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Plus there’s a very strong Japanese and Asian community in Seattle to boot.
Which is why I see the Mariners as the best fit for him.
The question now is, will my prediction come true?
Or will Ohtani join another team like the Dodgers, the Angels (despite having Pujols as the DH), or another team like the Chicago Cubs, the San Diego Padres or the San Francisco Giants – a club playing in a city with, like Seattle, a very strong Japanese and Asian community.
We’ll see in a little over two weeks, as he needs to make a decision by December 22nd.
Though it would be great if he did, I don’t ultimately expect Ohtani to be playing at Dodger Stadium (shown here) next spring. Photo courtesy of dodgersation.com