Ohtani, Villanueva named Rookies of the Month
Shohei Ohtani came to the Majors as the most-hyped rookie in a generation, if not longer, and Christian Villanueva wasn't even among the Padres' Top 30 prospects last year, per MLB Pipeline.
Yet from those different paths, Ohtani, the Angels' two-way phenom, and Villanueva, the Padres' breakout bat, were named the American League and the National League Rookies of the Month for April on Wednesday.
• Past winners: AL | NL
At just 23 years old, and with global hype as a player attempting to attain success doing something that hasn't been done since Babe Ruth, Ohtani has been the Majors' biggest storyline through the first month of the season, if not well before.
Ohtani has wowed the baseball world with his triple-digits velocity and overall athleticism, and Wednesday's award is the first of potentially many validations of Ohtani's potential. He's homered off Corey Kluber and Luis Severino, and took a perfect game into the seventh inning in just his second outing, against the A's on April 8.
At the plate, Ohtani hit .341/.383/.682 with four homers and 12 RBIs in just 47 plate appearances through April, which is remarkable considering the demands he's undergoing on the mound. Speaking of, Ohtani went 2-1 with a 4.43 ERA, 26 strikeouts and nine walks over 20 1/3 innings in four starts.
Ohtani is teammates with the game's unquestioned best player, Michael Trout, yet he has been arguably the Angels' most valuable player through the first month.
Villanueva, meanwhile, quietly led the NL with a .692 slugging percentage while putting together a very productive March and April, which were used to determine the award winner. His eight homers before May 1 were the second most in Padres history, behind only Adrian Gonzalez.
The Mexican-born Villanueva is taking full advantage of his long-awaited chance at the big league level. He signed with the Rangers in 2012, but was blocked at third base by Adrian Beltre and was later involved in the trade that sent Kyle Hendricks to the Cubs, where he was then blocked by Kristopher Bryant. Villanueva eventually signed with Padres in December '16, but he didn't debut in the Majors until last year as a mid-September callup, playing in just 12 games. He hit .321 with eight homers after play on Monday, the last day of April.
"He's confident that he can play at this level," Padres manager Andy Green said. "Now it's a matter of staying consistent over the course of a season. Consistent doesn't mean he's going to have a 1.200 OPS all year. ... But he can be a very, very productive offensive third baseman, and I think everybody is seeing that right now."