Japanese baseball superstar scores a spot on the Angels’ roster
Shohei Ohtani, an international baseball phenom hailing from Northern Japan, is due to make his first Major League Baseball appearance as a member of the Los Angeles Angels. Ohtani was cleared to join the MLB on November 21 of last month, which was when the free agent frenzy for his talent began. The two-way baseball star took the USA’s baseball fans by storm with his recent announcement to come to the U.S. and has officially signed with the Angels.
His skills have been discussed for about a year now, as his ability to stand out as not only a power hitter, but as an 100 mph+ pitcher, in the Nippon Professional Baseball’s Pacific League was displayed over the internet. Ohtani held a .942 OPS(On-base percentage plus Slugging Percentage) in 2017 with 8 home runs, while batting .332, although he was limited to 231 Plate appearances. He did, however, hit 27 home runs in 2016. He was sidelined by injury early this season, only appearing in 5 games on the mound, but previously posted a 1.86 ERA in 2016.
Mentions of Ohtani increased greatly in December, as he began to, one by one, narrow down his options. By December 4th, Ohtani had eliminated 23 teams from contention, leaving just seven teams: the Angels, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Padres, and Rangers. There was no excuse to not go after Ohtani this time around, due to his incredibly low price tag. A player of his caliber projects to be worth upwards of a $200 million contract.
Under Major League Baseball’s collective-bargaining agreement, an incoming international player under the age of 25 must sign for the league’s minimum salary of $545,000. Ohtani did, however, lock up a signing bonus of $2.3 million, the highest signing bonus offered by any team among the contenders. The Angels will pay Ohtani’s former team about $20 million for allowing him to play in the MLB. He is committed to the Angels for six years with his new contract.
Though his official role on the team has been speculated at, there has been no confirmation from the Angels. Deadspin Sports Writer Lindsey Adler wrote that “[Ohtani] really improves the team and gives them a lot of interesting flexibility.”
It should be interesting to see how Angels Manager Mike Scioscia puts Ohtani’s many talents to use. It is a rare occasion to see a pitcher hitting above 8th in a lineup, although it should be a daily occurrence for Ohtani in the upcoming season. The rising star is expected to transform the team, who is already stacked with all-stars including Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Justin Upton, and Andrelton Simmons.
Why did Ohtani pick the Angels over others, like the World-champion Astros or the youthful Yankees, who have just added NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton? The Angels World Series chances are a long shot, as they finished 20 games behind the Division champ Astros in 2017. LA Times Sports Writer Pedro Moura claims that Ohtani “felt a connection to them during their four hours together before he made his decision.” His decision came as shocking to many in the baseball world. The standout player looks to live up to his own hype beginning in April, on the mound and at the plate.