Scott Boras is the best.
If you give him lemons, he won’t be content to make lemonade, he’ll make a lemon curd white chocolate cheesecake. If he represented a pitcher with no arms and no legs he’d talk about how the guy should get big money because he’ll never tear a ligament. If Stephen Hawking wanted to play baseball, Boras would argue that his mental toughness compensates for his lack of foot speed and he wouldn’t be afraid to make vague-yet-complimentary allusions to Lou Gehrig to boot.
Put simply, the man is an artist.
So it should be no surprise that Boras is over six months ahead of the game in selling Prince Fielder to the free agent pursuing public. Ken Rosenthal reports:
“Prince is a remarkable athlete,” Boras says. “He has size, speed and strength. In football, his comp is Warren Sapp.
“It is rare that a strong, square body type has such flexibility, dexterity and athleticism. Among power-hitting first basemen his foot speed and agility is supreme and without knowing first-hand, he is most likely the better candidate (than Sapp) for ‘Dancing With the Stars.’”
I would be curious to see the ratio of articles about Prince Fielder referring to him as “square” as opposed to other geometric shapes.
But really, I don’t think I can disagree with any of that. Fielder does look athletic out there. He is faster than he should be. It’s so easy to get hung up on his frame and actually miss the fact that he’s a better athlete than a lot of ballplayers. Not just a better ballplayer — he clearly is one of the best — but a better athlete. Honestly: on a purely athletic basis, isn’t Fielder a better bet than Adam LaRoche? I think so.
I agree with the way Rosenthal puts it in the article: Fielder is going to be one of the most interesting free agents of all time. He is once again knocking the cover off the ball. Meanwhile, Albert Pujols is struggling and now hurt. None of which makes Fielder the better player right now — he isn’t — but he may be the better free agent bet.
And Boras may not to have to even break a sweat making the sales pitch.
Spring training is tough for players under the best of circumstances. Even in an age when players work out all year, getting back into the swing of baseball-at-full-speed is tough. Many players spend the bulk of February and March knocking off the rust and getting their timing back. Because of this — and because the games have no real stakes — it is not wise to take spring training statistics super seriously. Especially if the player in question is assured of a spot on the roster and is trying to avoid injury before the regular season arrives.
Spring training for Shohei Ohtani is doubly difficult. Not only does he have to knock the rust off from the offseason, but he (a) has to get used to a new country and language; (b) has to get to know all new teammates, coaches and, really, an entirely new baseball culture; and (c) do all of that while dealing with a media crush that hasn’t been seen in baseball since Ichiro first arrived 17 years ago. In short, Ohtani is under massive pressure and has to make massive adjustments in a short time.
With that said, neither the Angels nor Ohtani can be all that pleased with how his spring training has gone. In two actual major league exhibition games he’s allowed eight runs in two and two-thirds innings. Seven of those came on Friday when he was shelled by the Rockies in an inning and a third. If you include B-games against minor leaguers, he has allowed 17 runs on 18 hits, four of which were homers, in four games. As a hitter he’s 2-for-20.
As Jeff Fletcher of the OC Register notes, Ohtani’s peripherals are not bad, as he has struck out a lot of guys and walked very few and the average on balls in play against him has been brutal, which is not super sustainable. Bad luck and some fat pitches at a time of the year when luck doesn’t really matter and the pitches, because of the rust, are likely to be fatter than normal.
As Fletcher also notes, Nolan Arenado, who faced Ohtani on Friday, said that his stuff looked good and that he’s going to be a good big league pitcher. Ohtani and Angels officials are all striking the right notes about bad luck and adjustments, saying that they’re not worried.
I imagine they’d be worrying even less if things had gone well this spring. Unless of course this is just a professional wrestling-style work aimed at getting more of us to watch his regular season debut, in which he’ll reveal that he was sandbaggin’ all along.