Shohei Ohtani may be the first legitimate two-way player to break into Major League Baseball in recent history, but you won’t find him playing the outfield in 2018. At least, that’s the way Angels GM Billy Eppler put it during Ohtani’s press conference on Saturday, saying that while he was open to a six-man rotation, he didn’t anticipate the young star taking the field during his first season in the majors.
That’s not to say Ohtani will sacrifice any time at the plate. The 23-year-old is still expected to log at-bats at DH and will give veteran slugger and primary designated hitter Albert Pujols a bit of a breather there. According to MLB.com’s Maria Guardado, Ohtani became accustomed to batting three days a week when he played for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in NPB.
For the time being, it appears the Angels will push forward with Ohtani as a pitcher first and outfielder second. The two-way star is currently ranked first among all right-handed pitching prospects and fourth among all outfield prospects, per MLBPipeline.com. He tossed five starts in 2017, compiling a 3.20 ERA, 6.8 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 in 25 1/3 innings, but has not played the outfield since a six-game stint during his age-19 season in 2014.
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.