On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Angels welcomed pitcher-slash-hitter Shohei Ohtani back to their active roster. Ohtani will be used exclusively as a designated hitter in 2019 as he continues to rehab from the Tommy John surgery he underwent last October. Though Ohtani's protean nature won't be on display this season, his success in 2018 could still result in someone pulling double-duty for the 2019 Angels. That's because Los Angeles has leaned into the two-way player business by enabling Jared Walsh, Kaleb Cowart, and Bo Way to try their hands at both acts, with the idea being that they might unearth additional potential value.
So far, the results underscore Ohtani's transcendent talent.
Walsh is perhaps the most promising of the three. He entered Tuesday hitting .296/.383/.583 with eight home runs in 30 games at Triple-A. On the mound, he's appeared four times, fanning four batters in as many innings while walking two and yielding five hits. One talent evaluator graded Walsh as having a 45 fastball on the 20-80 scale -- or, so-called "fringe-average." He's all but certain to reach the majors as at least a spare outfielder type before the year ends.
Cowart is technically on his second stint with the Angels, having spent time with the Seattle Mariners and Detroit Tigers during the winter. So far in his first exposure to pitching as a professional, he's made two appearances and done nothing noteworthy. The underlying measures are more encouraging, as he's thrown in the low-90s and imparted fair spin on both his heater and his slider. The Angels have Cowart stored in Double-A, and have asked him to play the field just once -- and that was at first base. Understandably, given the learning curve he's facing elsewhere, he's struggled at the dish, with a .426 OPS in 23 at-bats.
Then there's Way, who was demoted to Double-A in late March. He's 27 years old and this is his fourth trip to Double-A, which tells you about all you need to know about his big-league prospects. For whatever it's worth, his moundwork includes below-average velocity and spin.
Each of the three is more likely to be deemed an organizational player than the next Ohtani, but that probably won't stop the Angels in their pursuit of finding more two-way contributors.