Fantasy Baseball: The best and worst of the seven possible destinations for Shohei Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani reportedly has narrowed the field to seven teams. Where would the two-way sensation fit best, and where would he have the lowest collateral impact? Scott White weighs the pros and cons for Fantasy owners.
In all, 23 teams received the disappointing news and will move forward with their alternate offseason plans. The seven scheduled to meet with the 23-year-old are mostly on the West Coast: the Angels, Mariners, Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Rangers and Cubs.
We can only assume the last two made a heck of sales pitch.
What else can we assume? Well, we don't know exactly what any of these clubs have promised, but we can infer all will give Ohtani the opportunity to play both ways, as he did with great success in Japan and as he would like to continue to do here. That opportunity may not apply equally to all clubs. Some, because of their personnel, 2018 ambitions or pure imagination, may offer a longer leash than others.
And Ohtani isn't the only one impacted by his decision. Other players' jobs will change in relation to his. As Fantasy owners, we should be invested in where he ultimately winds up.
I've divided the seven teams into three groups. The three in the AL, which I've labeled "the DH enablers," are his best hope of getting the rest he would need to fulfill his two-way dreams, removing the burden of fielding a position on the days he's functioning as a hitter. "The innovators" are two of the more creative, forward-thinking organizations in baseball and would presumably be more willing to defy convention to maximize talent. "The wild cards" don't have anything as concrete to offer, but given how few teams remain, Ohtani clearly has a reason for including them.
Of course, I'm less interested in how each destination would impact him than how it would impact us as Fantasy owners. Operating under the assumption that a two-way player is a net positive in Fantasy (because you could make the argument it isn't), here are the pros and cons for each of the seven scenarios.
|Pros: A GM willing to try anything |
Cons: Nelson Cruz's need to DH
Renegade GM Jerry Dipoto has made his affections for Ohtani known and has already said the 37-year-old Cruz could play the outfield a few days a week to free up the DH spot. But given Cruz's health concerns and defensive limitations, is that really a sustainable plan?
|Pros: Accommodating lineup, wide open rotation |
Cons: Unforgiving environment for pitchers, Willie Calhoun ready to go
The Rangers might have a more difficult time fitting the circus act into their existing sensibilities than the Mariners, but as desperate as they are for a starting pitcher, who knows what promises they'd make? Problem is they're the only team on Ohtani's list that plays in a hitter's park, and regardless of how his playing time shakes out, pitching is where he'll have the most value in Fantasy.
|Pros: Well ... they do play in the AL |
Cons: Old-school manager, Albert Pujols' limitations
The Angels have a full outfield and an immobile Albert Pujols at DH. They also have a traditional manager in Mike Scioscia, who may bristle at the scheduling conflicts a two-way player like Ohtani would create. Maybe Pujols is far enough removed from foot surgery to man first base full-time and Scioscia is as mesmerized by Ohtani's talent as everyone else, but both would seem to be obstacles.
|Pros: Creative manager, aggressive front office, flexible outfield, obvious pitching need |
Cons: Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ would lose at-bats
Theo Epstein has made pitching the Cubs' top priority this offseason and has long had his eye on Ohtani. In Joe Maddon, he has the perfect manager to navigate all the lineup changes that would accompany a two-way player, and the Cubs outfield has plenty of moving parts already. Of course, two of those moving parts, Schwarber and Happ, are of great interest to Fantasy owners themselves and would have an even harder time securing everyday at-bats with Ohtani on board.
|Pros: Culture of innovation committed to maximizing individual outcomes |
Cons: Crowded rotation and outfield, high pressure to perform
As creative as Maddon is, no organization tops the Dodgers in innovation right now. They already have a head start in employing the sort of rotation that a two-way Ohtani would require, having learned to build in rest and juggle a rotation surplus through clever use of the new 10-day DL. Of course, Ohtani only adds to the surplus, which could hold back his innings, and with Joc Pederson fighting for at-bats and the Dodgers in World Series-or-bust mode, Ohtani will have to perform right out of the gate to keep getting at-bats.
|Pros: Motivated manager, pitcher-friendly park |
Cons: Poor supporting cast, pitcher-friendly park
The Giants have become the masters of convention, winning three championships in the past seven years by more or less sticking to the script. But Bruce Bochy has more influence than most managers in the game today and has been one of the most vocal about Ohtani's prospects as a two-way player. AT&T Park would of course help Ohtani's transition as a pitcher, where he figures to have the most value, but it's hard to imagine his power playing in that enormous venue.
|Pros: Needs everywhere, minimal pressure to perform |
Cons: Poor supporting cast, unknown environment
Most of the Padres' talent is in the lower minors, and until they start introducing real talent to the major-league roster, it's hard to know what they stand for. But they need an attraction, and Ohtani, even if he's struggling to do both, would be that. It's a low-pressure environment in which to make the transition and a way to ensure he'll have every last opportunity to do the unprecedented.
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