Fantasy Baseball: Shohei Ohtani signing with Angels prompts more questions
Shohei Ohtani has made his decision, but how exactly the Angels plan to use him remains anybody's guess, as does the collateral impact on players like Albert Pujols. Scott White breaks it down.
It wouldn't have been my first choice.
The Angels, with longest-tenured manager Mike Scioscia at the helm, aren't exactly at the forefront of innovation. And if there's one thing the employer of Shohei Ohtani needs to be, it's open-minded.
The much ballyhooed 23-year-old was pulling double duty in Japan, emerging as that league's best pitcher and one of its best hitters, and would like to continue that practice in the U.S., even though no one has successfully pulled it off since, you know, Babe Ruth.
Baseball is notoriously slow to change. Things that "can't be done" aren't done, and anyone who challenges that idea is normally shouted out of the room. So why would it be any different for a player so young, and — at least on this side of the Pacific — un-established and unproven?
In this case, for the simple reason that he chose them.
Because of spending restrictions on foreign players on the right side of 25, Ohtani wasn't going to make much no matter where he signed. So unlike most free agents, he wasn't satisfied simply going to the highest bidder. Much like a five-star college football recruit, he needed assurances, and he took a methodical, if unorthodox, path to getting them. He put all 30 teams through a vetting process in which 27 willingly participated. Ohtani whittled that number to seven before making his final choice.
So rest assured, the Angels will play him both ways.
But for how long? That's where I don't necessarily trust Scioscia, one of the last of the old guard, to get with the program. If Ohtani is batting .100 after two weeks, what's stopping the manager from pulling the plug on the whole thing and limiting this generational talent to being a conventional starting pitcher?
One answer is "job security," as ownership already sided with Scioscia over the last GM. Then again, Billy Eppler is said to have a better relationship with Scioscia than Jerry Dipoto did, and presumably wouldn't have made Ohtani any assurances he couldn't back up. You'd just feel better about Ohtani's chances if he had a manager more accustomed to outside-the-box thinking, like a Joe Maddon or a Dave Roberts.
But I'm presuming an awful lot just from reputation. Maybe Scioscia turns out to be Ohtani's biggest backer and does everything to maximize his two-way potential. Certainly, that's what baseball fans want, but would it really be the best thing in Fantasy Baseball?
How exactly CBS Sports will handle a legitimate two-way player is still up for discussion.The clubhouse leader is having two Otanis in the player pool — one a pitcher and one a hitter — but no matter which direction we go, it's fair to assume the Ohtani owner won't be getting credit for both his pitching stats and hitting stats in a given week. And Ohtani's output in both areas will be neutered by his attempt to contribute in both.
For starters ...
See what I mean about Scioscia getting on board? Any team that intended to play Ohtani both ways would have had to employ a six-man rotation. It's what he was used to in Japan, and it's one of the more reasonable ways to build in the requisite rest.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. After throwing 100 pitches one day, could the Angels honestly expect Ohtani to take five at-bats the next? Probably not, and that's not how he operated in Japan either. Yes, he started at DH, but only about half the time. His arm needs to be ready to go every sixth day, after all.
So by attempting to do both, Ohtani won't get as many innings or at-bats as he would by committing to one or the other. That limits his pitching upside, at least in terms of Fantasy, to something in the neighborhood of Rich Hill, and his hitting upside too something like a late-round pick. Having the flexibility to use him as one or another in a given week (if we go that route) raises his value marginally, but again, there is no scenario in which Ohtani's owner gets credit for both his pitching and hitting stats in the same scoring period.
Plus, you have to factor in the collateral impact on Albert Pujols, who seemed like a fixture at DH at age 37 and now will have to re-acclimate to first base, which may effectively end him as an everyday player. Additionally, Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, Parker Bridwell and Matt Shoemaker will also be taking fewer turns in a six-man rotation. You can see why it might be in Fantasy owners' best interests for the two-way experiment to end sooner than later.
But as baseball fans, that's not what any of us want, right? We want to see potential fulfilled, and anything short of an earnest, continually evolving attempt to make it work would be unfulfilling.
To that end, I hope Ohtani made the right choice. For all the theorizing and speculating we've done over the last few months, we'll never know if he didn't. Things can only play out one way, and this is the way they're playing out.
And now that the biggest domino has fallen, may the offseason commence. Giancarlo Stanton, you're up next.
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