Back in December, the Los Angeles Angels signed Japanese Phenom Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani has made many headlines for his talent and is even being called the Japanese Babe Ruth. The unique thing about Ohtani is that he can pitch and hit. In five seasons for the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japanese League, Ohtani posted a .286/.358/.500 slash line with 48 home runs. He also tallied a 2.52 ERA and a 1.076 WHIP with 624 punch outs in 543 IP. There is no question this kid possesses a ton of talent, and his upside is through the roof at just the age of 23.
When Ohtani signed back in December, the league and the Angels themselves had high hopes for Ohtani in the big leagues. But his spring training performance might have made some people change their opinions. In 32 spring training at-bats, Ohtani only registered four hits while managing to strike out almost one-third of the time. On the pitching side, in 2 appearances, he allowed 8 earned runs in 2 ⅔ innings. Although, of the 8 outs he managed to record, 5 of them were punch outs.
Fast forward to opening day, where Ohtani batted 8th in the DH spot for the Angels, going 1-for-5 with a strikeout. The left handed hitter turned on the first pitch he saw in his first big league at bat and singled to right field. His next three plate appearances went groundout to 2nd, ground out to 1st, and ground out to 2nd, and then, in the 11th, he struck out on a foul tip. Ohtani sat the next 2 games, which brings us to yesterday when he gets his first start on the mound.
In the first inning, he got leadoff man Marcus Semien swinging on 4 pitches. He gets the next man to pop out, and then gets Matt Olson swinging on 3 pitches. 1 big league inning down and no damage done. The second inning starts with Khris Davis going down swinging, but then things got a little ugly. Matt Joyce and Stephen Piscotty both singled, followed by a Matt Chapman 3 run homerun. Following the home run, Ohtani was lights out the rest of the game. He got the next two men to groundout and didn’t allow a hit the next four innings. The only man to reach base after Chapman’s home run was Matt Joyce, who walked in the 4th.
— Gary Phillips (@GaryHPhillips) April 1, 2018
The Angels were able to give Ohtani a win in his first big league start. He finished the game only allowing 3 earned runs on 3 hits while walking only 1, and recording 6 strikeouts in 6 innings.
Aside from the 2nd inning hiccup, Ohtani looked sharp. His fastball averaged 98 mph and had a 19% swing and miss rate. His fastball topped out at 99.6 mph. He also possesses a slider and a nasty split finger that will embarrass a lot of hitters.
"Obviously I'm very happy, satisfied with my outing. I'm more happy the team got the victory."
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 2, 2018
Although it is hard to make assumptions from the first weekend of the season, it appears that Ohtani will make his mark on the mound rather than behind the plate. But with only 5 at-bats and 6 innings pitched, it is hard to generate a solid conclusion. We will have to wait another month or two until he gets up to around 100 plate appearances and 6 or 7 starts on the mound. But for the time being, let’s enjoy his first bit of success in the big leagues.
I never really generated an opinion on Ohtani during spring training because I wanted to wait until the start of the season since we know that you don’t look at a guys spring training number the majority of the time. But after watching what he did today against the A’s, I am currently all aboard the Ohtani wagon. This kid is just 23 and has the ability to be a stud in the big leagues. His next start is to be determined, but I would assume he will get a nod next weekend when the Angels play the Athletics again, this time in Los Angeles. If he keeps it up, the Angels could finally have their stud on the mound to compliment Mike Trout in the field, and if by any means both hitting and pitching pan out, the Angels could be a serious threat in the American League.