The big fish has been caught.
In a move that sent shockwaves across Major League Baseball, Shohei Ohtani made his decision to “take his talents” to the Los Angeles Angels. The Japanese 2-way player chose to play in Anaheim with Mike Trout and the Angels on Friday, with his agent citing that he “felt a strong connection with the team, and are the most capable to achieve his goals in Major League Baseball.” Here are my thoughts about the signing.
Here’s some background information about Ohtani, if you need a refresher. He is a 23-year old, can play both outfield and pitcher, and is the most highly touted Japanese prospect since Ichiro Suzuki. Ohtani has played for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters for the last five Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) seasons. At the plate, Ohtani has hit .286 and hit 48 home runs in his five seasons at the top level of Japanese baseball. He might even be more impressive on the mound. In the same five seasons, he went 42-15 and posted a a 2.52 ERA. To put his stats into comparison, Trea Turner hit for a .284 average during the 2017 MLB season.
The real question most people have about Ohtani’s big switch from the NPB to the MLB is how he will perform on the field, and how the Angels will be affected by the signing. The Angels have some amazing talent on their team, including Mike Trout, Andrelton Simmons, and Kole Calhoun. While they have Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker, the pitching staff of the Angels was really lacking in the past season, causing the Halos to finish the season two games under .500. Giving the Angels an ace to strengthen the pitching staff is huge. On days where Ohtani isn’t on the mound, he can take advantage of the designated hitter rule and solely bat. He also can fill in for the Angels’ already impressive outfield and play there. Secondly, I believe that Ohtani will have some struggle at first, because the MLB can be much more competitive than the NPB. When Ichiro first entered the Majors, he had a major drop in his batting average. Masahiro Tanaka, another international free agent, had his ERA shift from 1.27 to 2.77 after he made the jump. Even so, he will add something to the Angels that they don’t currently have.
I support the signing of Ohtani by the Angels. In a highly competitive AL West division including the reigning World Series champions and the new-look Mariners, the Angels needed to make a splash like this one to virtually stay in the hunt for a playoff spot. I believe that the Angels will be competitive in the race this year, and possibly obtain one of the two wild card spots. With the Winter Meetings still yet to occur, the stove has just started to heat up. The crazy 2017 offseason has begun.