There hasn't been a player like Shohei Ohtani in Major League Baseball in a long time.
Oh sure, we've seen pitchers who can rake. Madison Bumgarner obviously comes to mind, having clubbed 15 homers with a .706 OPS over his past four seasons. However, while he's been a good hitter for a pitcher, he's still just a pitcher who can hit. The Giants might occasionally start him at DH in an AL park, but on his off days, Bumgarner isn't picking up a bat and forcing his way into the lineup. He still sits with the pitchers in the cafeteria, in other words.
Ohtani? Now, he's going to try to straddle both worlds in a way we haven't seen in decades. No player in MLB has recorded 200 plate appearances and 45 innings pitched since Rene Monteagudo, who did it in 1945. Even a good hitting pitcher like Bob Gibson, who was rarely lifted for a pinch hitter if he was rolling, had a career-high of just 127 plate appearances; Bumgarner has never had more than 97.
That has made Fantasy analysts' – not to mention the people who design and run Fantasy leagues – lives easy. The established order reigns: pitchers pitch and hitters hit. More to the point, pitchers get credit for pitching, and hitters get credit for hitting.
But, if Ohtani is a one-of-a-kind player, we can't just try to fit him into the same box as everyone else. And we won't. To deal with the impact of Ohtani's unique skill set, CBS Fantasy has changed the rules of the game, allowing Fantasy players who draft Ohtani to use him as either a hitter or a pitcher. You won't have to draft two different versions of him, but you also won't be able to use him as both a hitter and a pitcher at the same time. If he's in your lineup as a pitcher, his pitching stats will count; his hitting stats will count if he's a hitter.
He will be the first dual-eligible pitcher/hitter in Fantasy, and you'll have to figure out what that means when you're building your team. In leagues with daily lineup locks, it's pretty simple: This is great news for Ohtani's Fantasy value. On days when he pitches, you put him in as a pitcher. Then you move him to DH (or outfield, eventually) when he's not on the mound. Scott White has Ohtani ranked around 130th in standard Rotisserie scoring, but says he would be willing to bump him up to around 70th in daily lineup lock leagues. That's a big increase in value.
In weekly lineup lock leagues, it's more of a question mark as to whether this will make much of an impact on his value. Ohtani is considered a better prospect as a pitcher, and if you have to make a decision for an entire week, you're probably going to want to default to his better skill. Especially because the learning curve as a hitter could be steeper, and he might only be in the lineup three or four times a week when he isn't pitching. Ohtani would have to be a pretty special hitter to be worth starting every week as a hitter while being a part-time player.
There is, of course, a chance this is all much ado about nothing. Ohtani may neither hit nor pitch well enough in 2018 to be worth all the fuss. He was a phenom in Japan, and his decision to come to MLB when he did means he is betting on his skill set translating in order to maximize his career earnings. However, the transition could be a difficult one, and with the Angels potentially rolling with a six-man rotation, there may be weeks when Ohtani doesn't even pitch – and you can mostly forget about two-start weeks.
Still, the upside is tantalizing. Over his last two seasons with the Nippon Ham Fighters, Ohtani posted an OPS north of .950, with 30 homers in 613 plate appearances, while also sporting a career 2.52 ERA with 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings, a huge number for Japan. He has the potential to be a generational talent, and not just because he is unique; Ohtani legitimately could be a difference maker in both disciplines, despite struggling in Spring Training.
You don't want to overreact to his unique circumstances and draft Ohtani in the third round, but his skill set could make him a highly valued piece in 2018, and you don't want to ignore that either. We're certainly hoping Ohtani is worth the hype, and we're giving Fantasy players the chance to take advantage of his potential upside.