Come Monday, we will finally find out whether Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani will come over to MLB this offseason. MLB and NPB are in the middle of a posting dispute with the MLBPA. , otherwise Ohtani is heading back to Japan for the 2018 season., but
Ohtani, 23, is arguably the best hitter and pitcher in Japan, and it has long been speculated he will want to do both in MLB. Now we have confirmation. Nez Balelo, Ohtani's agent, recently confirmed Ohtani wants the opportunity both hit and pitch whenever he comes over to the big leagues.
Ankle and quad problems hampered Ohtani most of this season, limiting him to only 231 plate appearances (.332/.403/.540) and 25 1/3 innings (3.20 ERA). In 2016, a fully healthy season, Ohtani hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 homers and threw 140 innings with a 1.86 ERA and 174 strikeouts. That earned him Pacific League MVP honors.
Teams in Japan do not use the same five-day rotation schedule as MLB teams. Starters pitch once a week in Japan. Ohtani's usual schedule was start Sunday, rest Monday, DH on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, then rest Friday and Saturday before his start on Sunday. Whichever teams signs him will have to figure out a schedule that works and makes sure Ohtani gets enough rest between starts.
For what it's worth, ESPN's Dan Szymborski used his ZiPS system to come with statistical translations and 2018 projections for Ohtani, which helps give us an idea of what kind of impact he could have next season. Here are the 2018 projections:
- As a hitter: .266/.328/.466 (112 OPS+), 12 HR, 2.2 WAR in 305 at-bats
- As a pitcher: 3.55 ERA (119 ERA+), 10.4 K/9, 3.3 WAR in 139.1 innings
A comparable hitter to Ohtani's projection is Evan Gattis, who hit .261/.311/.457 (111 OPS+) with 12 homers in 300 at-bats in 2017. A comparable pitcher? Jacob deGrom works. He had a 3.53 ERA (119 ERA+) with 10.7 K/9, albeit in 201 1/3 innings. The workloads are different, but Ohtani's projection and deGrom's rate stats are basically identical. A deGrom-caliber starter who hits like Gattis on the days between starts is a mighty valuable player.
I think most assumed letting Ohtani hit and pitch would be a prerequisite for signing him. Now we know it will be. Ohtani wants to hit and pitch, and even if it doesn't work long-term, it is worth trying anyway. There is a lot of value to be gained by letting him do both.