Shohei Otani has proven this season that he’s a talent unlike any other Japanese baseball has seen over the course of a full season. There are better hitters and better pitchers (though maybe not for long), but no one who can do both simultaneously as well as Otani has for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters this year. Considering just how well he’s done, that statement might stretch across the ocean to the major leagues as well.
Otani the hitter has a .283 average, 26 extra-base hits (including 10 home runs), 31 RBIs and a .869 on-base plus slugging percentage in 191 at-bats. Otani the pitcher is 10-4 with a 2.46 ERA in 21 starts and has struck out 162 in 139 innings.
On Sunday against the Orix Buffaloes, he homered to straightaway center at Kyocera Dome to become the first Japanese player to reach double digits in both home runs and wins.
The feat conjures up memories of the legendary Babe Ruth, who had 13 wins and 11 home runs for the 1918 Boston Red Sox in MLB.
He’s a unique talent. One who during the postseason might provide Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama with a unique dilemma deciding what to do when his best pitcher and a valuable offensive weapon (and a capable outfielder with a strong arm at that) are the same person.
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Did you see the articles about how apparently Ichiro learned to speak Spanish just so he could trash talk? I thought that was pretty awesome
"Going to war without the French is like going hunting without an accordion."
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60 Minutes is reporting that Shohei Ohtani could be coming to the US as early as next season. But he's making it clear he wants to sign with a team that will let him both pitch and hit.
It now appears certain Otani will be in the majors next year.
Shohei Ohtani, known as "Japan's Babe Ruth," will sign with the Los Angeles Angels, his agent Nez Balelo announced Friday.
The 23-year-old is Japan's most feared starting pitcher and it's most prolific hitter. Last year, he won the league's home-run derby and threw its fastest pitch in history.
"Shohei is humbled and flattered by all the time and effort that so many teams put into their presentations and sincerely thanks them for their professionalism. In the end, he felt a strong connection with the Angels and believes they can best help him reach his goals in Major League Baseball," Balelo said in a statement.
"While there has been much speculation about what would drive Shohei's decision, what mattered to him most wasn't market size, time zone or league but that he felt a true bond with the Angels," Balelo said. "He sees this as the best environment to develop and reach the next level and attain his career goals."
The Angels will have to pay his team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, a $20 million posting fee. Ohtani will sign a minor league contact and can receive up to $2,315,000 in international bonus money.
And so the great experiment begins, the Angels donning lab coats and goggles as they attempt to fit baseball's first potential two-way star since Babe Ruth into their rotation and lineup and hoping it all doesn't blow up in their face.
The chance of combustion, though, seems slim.
Even if Shohei Ohtani is not the slugger he was in Japan, the 23-year-old right-hander, with his 100-mph fastball and vast array of off-speed pitches, could be an ace that provides great value for the $22.3 million the Angels invested in him.
Either way, it will be interesting to see how Angels pitchers, who report to spring training with catchers on Tuesday and begin workouts Wednesday, adapt to a six-man rotation to accommodate Ohtani. And it should be fascinating to see how Ohtani transitions to the major leagues and handles the infrared spotlight on him.
"If you're more of a risk-taker in life, this is exciting," general manager Billy Eppler said. "To use a maritime analogy, if you're sailing away from shore, the farther you sail, there's caution, there's awareness. Your senses are on higher alert. But there's also some intrigue and excitement with that."
There's some uncertainty surrounding Ohtani, who was diagnosed in October with a small tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of his prized elbow, a condition the Angels are not overly concerned about. Many pitchers have been successful with similar tears.