It’s no secret that Angels’ shiny new wunderkind Shohei Ohtani profiles a little better as a pitcher than a hitter. But that two-way talent is kind of his schtick, and one the team is counting on developing as they move toward the start of the 2018 season. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports says scouts are seeing something different, however, something that indicates that Ohtani’s skills at the plate may not translate to Major League Baseball as seamlessly as the team hopes they will.
Passan’s entire piece is worth a read, especially for the plethora of in-depth analysis from major league scouts. Most evaluators seem to harp on the point that Ohtani isn’t used to seeing the same quality and variety of pitches that he handled in Japan, and they predict that inside fastballs, sinkers and curveballs will be particularly difficult to adjust to as Ohtani enters his first MLB season. “He’s basically like a high school hitter because he’s never seen a good curveball,” one scout told Yahoo Sports. “He’s seen fastballs and changeups. And you’re asking a high school hitter to jump to the major leagues?”
Those challenges will have to be addressed in one way or another, though as Passan points out, it seems more likely that the Angels will allow their young superstar to refine his skills in the majors rather than transfer him to the minor leagues for some much-needed development. Not only have his shortcomings — both perceived and real — with the bat raised some eyebrows this spring, but the 23-year-old has had a rough go of it on the mound, too. His command and velocity has been erratic at best, and his latest outing featured two wild pitches, a ceiling of 95 mph and six runs in three innings as he faced the Mexican League Tijuana Toros on Friday.
If the Angels have nagging concerns, they’re not letting on. According to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, general manager Billy Eppler wouldn’t entertain any hypothetical scenario in which Ohtani didn’t fulfill his potential as the league’s next great pitcher/hitter. “I am not allowing my mind to go there,” Eppler said Friday. “It is out of your control. You are spending energy on something that has not happened. It could. If it does, we’ll deal with it.”