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Shohei Ohtani to sign with the Angels

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Japanese star Shohei Ohtani is going to sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The news was reported first by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, who tweeted out a statement from Nez Balelo, Ohtani’s agent. The statement reads as follows:

This morning, after a thorough, detailed process, Shohei Ohtani has decided to sign with the Los Angeles Angels. Shohei is humbled and flattered by all the time and effort that so many teams put into their presentations and sincerely thanks them for their professionalism. In the end, he felt a strong connection with the Angels and believes they can best help him reach his goals in Major League Baseball. I want to thank the clubs and everyone else for respecting our intent to make this very important process as private as possible. We were resolved to having a fair, methodical process. Teams clearly put in a lot of work, and we are grateful for that.

Ohtani is one of the best, youngest and most unique talents to ever come out of Japan. He’s only 23 but has already established himself as both an ace pitcher and a star slugger, with a 42-15 record with an ERA of 2.52 and a K/BB ratio of 624/200 in 543 innings while batting .286 with 48 home runs and 166 RBI in 1,140 plate appearances. He has made it clear that he wants to both pitch and hit in the majors, as he did in Japan.

The Angels have $2.315 million in international pool money to give Ohtani. That was the third largest pool, behind the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners. Seattle had, in particular, been seen as pushing hard for Ohtani and was among the first clubs to publicly state that they would accommodate his wishes to be a two-way player. That the Mariners not only lost out on Ohtani but lost out on him to a division rival that used to employ their current GM, Jerry Dipoto has to be a pretty bitter pill to swallow.

There has been less reported about the Angels plans for Ohtani, though given that they had less money to offer, you have to assume Ohtani liked what he heard about their plans for him. As it is, he clearly has a place in their starting rotation, which is currently manned by number one starter Garrett Richards, who only pitched 27 innings last year, and a host of other often-injured starters like Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney.

To the extent Ohtani gets at bats, they could come at the expense of either DH Albert Pujols, who was among the worst hitters in all of baseball last year, or first baseman C.J. Cron, who posted an OPS+ of only 99 last season. Ohtani could also see time backing up or subbing for corner outfielders Justin Upton and Kole Calhoun.

We’re likely to hear far more about the Angels plans for him in the coming days. In the meantime, welcome to America Shohei Ohtani.

Ronald Acuna tops Keith Law’s top-100 prospect list

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ESPN’s Keith Law has released his annual top-100 prospects list. According to Law, Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna is the number one prospect in baseball.

After blazing through High-A and Double-A ball last season, Acuna was the youngest player in Triple-A in 2017. He was 19 years-old all season long and put up a fantastic line of .335/.384/.534 in 486 plate appearances at Double and Triple-A. He then went on to star in the Arizona Fall League, leading that circuit in homers. Law, who is not one to throw hyperbolic comps around, says, “if Acuna stays in center and maxes out his power, he’s going to be among the best players in baseball, with a Mike Trout-ish profile.”

Acuna, who is 20 now, is likely play the bulk of the season in Atlanta, even if he’s kept down at Triple-A for the first couple of weeks of the season to manipulate his service time, er, I mean to allow him to develop his skills more fully. Or something. Given the presence of reigning Gold Glove center fielder Ender Inciarte, Acuna is not likely to man center for the Braves this year, but Law says he’d be a plus right field defender, which could make the Braves outfield Death to Flying Things in 2018. At least when Nick Markakis is not playing.

Number two on the list: Blue Jays third base prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. As law notes, the name may be familiar but he’s not very much like his old man. Mostly because young Vlad can take a walk. Which is better, even if it’s nowhere near as fun as swinging at balls that bounce in the dirt first.

For the other 98, you’ll have to click through.