How do you build the $700 million man?

December 13th, 2023

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 set a worldwide sports record when news broke over the weekend that he’d be signing a 10-year deal with the Dodgers. The Japanese superstar climbed the summit of free agency after dominating both on the mound (3.14 ERA, 167 strikeouts) and at the plate (.304/.412/.654, 44 homers) on his way to winning his second American League MVP Award.

Here at MLB Pipeline, we deal with prospects and scouting tool grades. The last (and only) time Ohtani appeared on a prospect list was the 2018 preseason edition when he nudged past for the No. 1 overall spot. These were Ohtani’s grades at the time:

Hitting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 70 | Run: 65 | Arm: 80 | Field: 50 | Overall: 60
Pitching grades: Fastball: 80 | Slider: 65 | Curveball: 50 | Splitter: 65 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 70

His profile has changed somewhat since then, but the gist remains -- Ohtani has multiple plus, plus-plus or top-of-the-scale tools. He has no modern equivalent in that regard, especially not in the world of prospectdom.

To illustrate just how elite Ohtani is, we’d have to build him by borrowing the tools of multiple active Top 100 prospects to even come close to replicating his greatness. So that’s what we’ll do.

Hit: Xavier Isaac, 1B, Rays (No. 4, MLB No. 94)

Ohtani enjoyed his best year as a pure hitter in 2023 by hitting .304, 30 points above his career average of .274. As David Adler notes, his expected stats based on exit velocity and launch angle supported the batting-average rise, proving the left-handed slugger’s actual performance was no fluke. But he also chased, whiffed and struck out more than average, while also taking his walks.

Consider these numbers for Ohtani: 23.9 percent K rate, 15.2 percent BB rate, 13.9 percent swinging-strike rate

Now consider Isaac’s at Single-A and High-A in his first full season: 21.2 percent K rate, 14.8 percent BB rate, 13.1 percent swinging-strike rate

Like Ohtani, Isaac is willing to swing hard at pitches, because when he makes contact, it’s loud (.285 average, .521 slugging percentage), and the hard-hit balls are driving the knocks in bunches. You live with the swing-and-miss when that happens.

Power: Junior Caminero, 3B/SS, Rays (No. 1, MLB No. 6)

Ohtani has hit 124 homers over the last three seasons. Only (138), (127) and (125) have gone deep more. Judge is the only qualified Major Leaguer with a higher slugging percentage (.615) and ISO (.324) than Ohtani’s .585 and .307, respectively, over that same span. In 2023, the 29-year-old ranked in the 99th percentile or better in expected slugging, average exit velocity and barrel percentage.

Saying any prospect is capable of reproducing those numbers borders on foolishness. But the Top 100 prospect with the best chance? That might be Caminero.

The Tampa Bay infielder is coming off an age-19 season in which he hit 31 homers and slugged .591 over 117 games at High-A and Double-A. He’s plenty capable of producing exit velocities of 110-plus mph -- his max in seven Major League games was already 112 mph -- and with his leg kick and swing path, he has the setup at the plate that allows the raw pop to play in games.

The last Minor Leaguer to hit 25 or more homers in their age-19 season while seeing Double-A in that same campaign was  (28 homers) in 2009.

So yeah, we’re saying there’s a chance.

Speed: Ronny Mauricio, INF, Mets (No. 4, MLB No. 87)

Both Ohtani (6-foot-4) and Mauricio (6-foot-3) are on the tall side for the sport and can get going pretty similarly.

Ohtani averaged a 27.8 ft/sec Sprint Speed on competitive plays in 2023, compared to Mauricio’s 27.7 ft/sec during his first trip to the Majors. Ohtani holds the advantage on home-to-first times as Mauricio, a switch-hitter, takes a little longer to reach that speed out of the box, but both are longer-limbed players who can take advantage of their strides.

Fastball: Paul Skenes, RHP, Pirates (No. 1, MLB No. 3)

Believe it or not, Skenes, who averaged 98 mph on his fastball at LSU, has the velocity advantage over Ohtani (96.8), but both right-handers are capable of cranking it up to triple-digits when needed. Remember Ohtani’s 100 and 99.8 mph heaters past in the last at-bat of the World Baseball Classic?

What makes the comparison more apt are the pitch shapes. Neither righty ranks especially high in terms of induced vertical break, but their velocities are good enough to carry the day. Ohtani also upped his sinker usage from 3.7 percent in 2022 to 6.0 as he toyed with getting a different look on his fastball.

Slider/Cutter: Jackson Jobe, RHP, Tigers (No. 3, MLB No. 54)

Ohtani’s most-used pitch in the last two seasons? His low-to-mid-80s sweeper, thrown more than one-third of the time in both campaigns. Similarly, Jobe’s 82-85 mph slider -- it has enough horizontal movement to be a sweeper itself, so he doesn’t mind what you call it -- can be his bread-and-butter. The Detroit righty’s breaking pitch has more spin than Ohtani’s, often going above 3,000 rpm, but their reliance on both is telling.

Ohtani also added an 88-92 mph cutter in 2021 as a pitch he can use to steal strikes in the zone, and Jobe worked on incorporating a similar offering for the same purpose in 2023.

Splitter: Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Braves (No. 2, MLB No. 100)

Upon his arrival from Japan, Ohtani’s splitter was considered perhaps his signature pitch -- an upper-80s divebomber that especially kept lefties at bay. The characteristics are still there, including an average spin rate of 1,288 and a whiff rate of 35.1 percent, but as he’s struggled more to command it lower in the zone, he seems to have lost some confidence in the splitter. Ohtani’s usage has dropped from 18.1 percent in 2021 to 6.5 last year.

But because it can be an effective pitch on its own, we still have to turn to Waldrep -- owner of the best splitter in the 2023 Draft and now perhaps the entire Minors. The upper-80s pitch elicited four whiffs on five swings during Waldrep’s Triple-A debut on Sept. 23.

Curveball: Tink Hence, RHP, Cardinals (No. 2, MLB No. 42)

Both righties show impressive curveballs -- Ohtani’s 41.7 percent curveball whiff rate was the highest of any pitch he threw more than 75 times in 2023 -- but have largely pocketed them to focus on other secondaries. Still, their presences give hitters a little extra to consider.

Control: Kyle Harrison, LHP, Giants (No. 1, MLB No. 20)

Ohtani’s 10.4 percent walk rate as a pitcher ranked in the 22nd percentile of Major Leaguers in ’23, indicating that he’s a stuff-over-control hurler. Seems similar to Harrison, who has three above-average pitches but can get wild. Good news: the 22-year-old southpaw issued only 11 free passes in 34 2/3 innings for San Francisco last summer.