ANAHEIM -- All eyes will be on Shohei Ohtani when Angels camp opens next week.Ohtani, the Angels' prized offseason acquisition, will officially kick off his bid to become the Majors' first two-way star since Babe Ruth when he reports to the club's training complex in Tempe, Ariz., for the start
ANAHEIM -- All eyes will be on Shohei Ohtani when Angels camp opens next week.
Ohtani, the Angels' prized offseason acquisition, will officially kick off his bid to become the Majors' first two-way star since Babe Ruth when he reports to the club's training complex in Tempe, Ariz., for the start of Spring Training on Tuesday. How the Angels deploy Ohtani's unique skill set will be one of the most fascinating storylines to follow this season.
Ohtani, 23, has long been an object of fascination due to his ability to fire 100-mph fastballs and launch 500-foot home runs. He drew interest from nearly all 30 clubs when he announced that he would be leaving his native Japan to play in the Majors in 2018, setting off one of the wildest free-agent pursuits in recent memory. In December, Ohtani surprised many by choosing to join the Angels, who signed him for $2.315 million and held a rally outside Angel Stadium to celebrate the monumental acquisition.
"This is a historic day for our organization," manager Mike Scioscia said at the time. "His ability both on the field and in the batter's box is something that doesn't come along -- it really never comes along. So our excitement is very, very high."
Since he signed a Minor League contract like any international amateur, Ohtani is not on the Angels' current 40-man roster, but he has the potential to make an immediate impact for the club in the Majors. Though he missed most of last season with a right ankle injury, Ohtani captured Japan's Pacific League MVP Award in 2016 after going 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA and batting .322 with 22 home runs in 104 games.
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Ohtani, who is ranked the No. 1 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, projects as a frontline right-handed starter and possesses a fastball that sits in the upper 90s and has been clocked as fast as 102.5 mph -- the fastest recorded pitch in Japanese history. He also has plus secondary offerings, highlighted by a diving splitter and a hard slider.
A left-handed hitter, Ohtani is also blessed with tremendous raw power and is expected to garner at-bats as a part-time designated hitter with the Angels, though most scouts agree that he has more upside as a pitcher.
There is no modern blueprint for what Ohtani will attempt to do with the Angels this season, but general manager Billy Eppler and his staff have discussed ways to ease their newest star's transition to the Majors, including potentially adopting a six-man rotation. Other details of the two-way plan have so far been sparse, but expect them to come into focus in the coming weeks.
"I think with Shohei, what we're projecting him to do is going to be very unique," Scioscia said in December. "It could be something that's extraordinary, so we're going to take it one step at a time and we'll see."
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.