One of the premiere baseball talents in the world decided to make the move to Major League Baseball this offseason, as Japanese star Shohei Ohtani was posted by the Nippon-Ham Fighters.
Ohtani had his choice of all 30 teams to sign with and wound up picking the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim over finalists like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres.
The 23-year-old is one of the best talents to come out of Japan in recent memory, and perhaps ever, as he expected to be a two-way player in the big leagues.
Fellow countryman Kenta Maeda, who didn’t quite have the same amount of fanfare when he sighed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, said he’s looking forward to watching Ohtani strive for unique success, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“As a Japanese player, I’m excited to see what he can do and very much rooting for him to perform well so other Japanese players will be able to play here,” said Maeda, returning for his third season in the Dodgers’ starting rotation.
“I believe it’s a very difficult thing to do. Physically, it’s going to be a very tough thing to do, especially since he’ll be doing hitting as well as pitching. He’ll have to adjust as a pitcher and to a new schedule that is very different than in Japan. From a Japanese fan’s point of view, people would love to see his two-way ability.”
As a hitter in Japan, Ohtani owns a career slash line of .286/.358/.500 with 70 doubles, 48 home runs and 166 RBI in 1,170 plate appearances.
On the mound, he pitched to a 2.52 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over 543 career innings with 624 strikeouts — good for a 10.3 strikeouts per nine ratio with a fastball that approaches the upper 90s.
Part of the reason that he signed with the Angels was that they were willing to let him both pitch and play the field. As an American League team, they have the luxury of using Ohtani as a designated hitter on days that he is not pitching.