While fantasy owners are spending Spring Training trying to figure out how to adjust to a recent league-wide offensive explosion, league commissioners are faced with the additional dilemma of how to handle Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani after he signed with the Angels.
With the skills to impact fantasy leagues as a pitcher and hitter, the 23-year-old presents a scoring dilemma that has not been seen since the popularization of fantasy baseball.
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This piece covers the gamut of reasonable options, with the most popular scenarios presented at the end. Yahoo has announced a decision to introduce two distinct Ohtanis into fantasy baseball for 2018, giving owners the opportunity to use him exclusively as a hitter or a pitcher.
Option 1: Ohtani is eligible as a pitcher only, with no ability to accumulate hitting statistics.
Pros: This is the simplest plan, with leagues treating Ohtani as they treat every other pitcher. It also puts no added stress on scoring platforms, or on owners to figure out how to value him. Redraft leagues that use this option can revisit the Ohtani conundrum when we have more information to work with next year.
Cons: To an even greater degree than Option 1, this option does not accurately reflect Ohtani as a player. Leagues that use this system may be perceived as ignoring, rather than addressing, the challenges of this unique situation.
Option 2: Ohtani is eligible to simultaneously accumulate hitting and pitching statistics.
Pros: This system best represents the value Ohtani brings to his actual club each day or week.
Cons: This feels like a double standard, especially on the days when Ohtani accumulates both hitting and pitching stats. Owners will wonder why Ohtani can contribute an RBI or a run scored but another pitcher is not credited for the same achievements. Additionally, many scoring platforms could struggle to handle Ohtani this way while not handling other pitchers in the same fashion.
Option 3: Ohtani gets multi-position eligibility as a starting pitcher and utility hitter and can be used at one of the two positions in any given scoring period.
Pros: This system is relatively simple for scoring platforms to handle. It is also especially straightforward in weekly transaction leagues, where Ohtani will be used as a pitcher in most scoring periods.
Cons: Under this plan, Ohtani is not accurately reflected in fantasy as a player who can impact his real-life team on a consistent basis as a pitcher and hitter. Additionally, this system would result in the right-hander being the only player with a major value difference between daily and weekly transaction formats.
Option 4: Two Ohtanis are available during the draft or auction. He can be drafted once as a pitcher and once as a hitter.
Pros: This is the option that Yahoo has decided to pursue. The total of Ohtani's skill set is available to impact the league. Also, owners will likely find it easier to evaluate him as two separate players than to determine his value as a combination hitter-pitcher. Ohtani can be drafted by two different owners, or the same owner, depending on the preferences of each league and league commissioner. Finally, scoring platforms should be able to easily handle this plan.
Cons: There is an inequity of having two versions of Ohtani but not any other player. For example, some NL-only owners may have occasionally wished to own Carlos Zambrano as a hitter in 2008, when he batted .337 with four homers and 14 RBIs across 83 at-bats.
Conclusion: Option 4 seems to be gaining traction as a popular choice of many in the fantasy industry. Like Yahoo, Tout Wars, another prominent format, has chosen to allow Ohtani's batting stats to be owned by one team and his pitching stats by another. Option 3 also seems to be popular, likely due to its representation of his diverse skill set without completing modifying the way scoring platforms are constructed. LABR, another prominent industry league, will use the starting pitcher/utility hitter combo outlined in Option 3. But for commissioners who would like to err on the conservative side, Option 2 is a viable way to avoid overreacting to a situation that may prove to be much ado about nothing, as Ohtani is projected to be a much better fantasy pitcher than fantasy hitter in 2018.
Owners in keeper leagues are facing especially tough decisions in regard to Ohtani, as the choices they make prior to drafting next spring will likely need to remain consistent for multiple seasons. No matter which option a league chooses, this much is clear: The youngster's arrival is certainly providing an exciting conversation that even the most experienced owners have never before encountered.