Heading through the MLB Spring Training process, most of us were writing off Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a bust. While the debate used to be whether Ohtani could get a grip on himself, now the argument involves whether it’s too early to label him as a star.
Selling to crowds over 44,000, Ohtani has been able to light up the stage on the mound, as well as at the plate. The 23-year recently became one of three American League pitchers in the history of the game to strike out 12+ batters in one of his first two starts. In fact, the last MLB pitcher to strike out 12+ batters in one of their first two starts was Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who struck out 14 batters in 2012.
While his arm has been showcased properly, he came into the MLB as a two-way phenomenon. Homering in three straight games, the last time an individual received two wins on the mound and 3+ home runs was Jim Shaw for the Washington Senators back in 1919.
The numbers are fun to look at, but do they predict the future? The Angels sit within a competitive AL West division, and Ohtani has only faced the Oakland Athletics so far in 2018. While Oakland can remain competitive at some points, this was a roster that managed to rank 24th in hits, as well as 17th in runs scored in 2017.
No one is taking the accomplishments away from Ohtani, but two starts makes the picture too vague to identify a player as a star or bust. The fact that Ohtani is selling tickets at almost a sellout rate is incredible, but the next few games will be telling to the future of the rookie.
Within his upcoming schedule, pending any changes to the rotation, Shohei Ohtani will be pinned up against the Kansas City Royals (vs Jason Hammel), the Boston Red Sox (TBA), and the Houston Astros (vs Charlie Morton). While he isn’t facing off against any pure aces, the opposing rosters are more than respectable. The Kansas City offense has forgotten to wake up to start the new year, but Boston and Houston will force Ohtani to remain alert.
If fans were faulted for writing off Ohtani as a bust to start the season, they should remain cautious to write him off as a star already. While his future appears bright, two-way stars are once in a lifetime individuals. In theory, no one can exactly categorize the style of Ohtani, as we all patiently await to view his potential ceiling.