Shohei Ohtani was named the American League Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Monday following a remarkable season that saw him become the Majors' first two-way star in a century.Ohtani earned 25 of 30 first-place votes from the BBWAA electorate, finishing ahead of the
Shohei Ohtani was named the American League Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Monday following a remarkable season that saw him become the Majors' first two-way star in a century.
Ohtani earned 25 of 30 first-place votes from the BBWAA electorate, finishing ahead of the Yankees' Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. He is the third Angel to win the award, joining Michael Trout (2012) and Tim Salmon (1993), and the fourth Japanese-born winner, after Hideo Nomo (1995), Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001).
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"I'm really honored," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara during a conference call with reporters. "It's really unbelievable that I was able to win this award, and how I was able to win it at such a high level of competition in Major League Baseball. I'm really proud of this award."
Trout, who is a finalist for the AL MVP Award (which will be revealed Thursday on MLB Network), congratulated the 24-year-old Ohtani in a statement released by the Angels.
"I want to pass along my congratulations to Shohei for this special honor," Trout said. "It's great to see all of his hard work and effort recognized with this very prestigious award. All of us enjoyed playing alongside and watching Shohei excel as a two-way player and make history along the way. I have no doubt the best is yet to come!"
After spending his first five professional seasons starring for the Nippon-Ham Fighters, Ohtani chose to leave his native Japan last fall to pursue a Major League career. His prowess as both a right-handed pitcher and left-handed hitter made him one of the most coveted free agents in recent memory, sparking a whirlwind courtship from nearly all 30 MLB teams.
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Ohtani's decision to join Trout in Anaheim came as a surprise to many and set heightened expectations for the Angels entering the 2018 season. After an uneven Spring Training generated questions about whether Ohtani's talent would translate to the Majors, he quickly erased those doubts once the regular season began.
"Even though I wasn't putting up the results that maybe everyone was expecting, I still felt like I was evolving as a player, making strides," Ohtani said. "So I wasn't really worried about that part."
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Ohtani ultimately justified the hype, joining Babe Ruth as the only players in MLB history with 10 pitching appearances and 20 home runs in a season.
Before a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow halted his two-way endeavor and led to Tommy John surgery last month, Ohtani emerged as a front-line starter for the Angels, using his triple-digit fastball, devastating splitter and nasty slider to fashion a 3.31 ERA with 63 strikeouts over 51 2/3 innings.
He was just as impactful at the plate, batting .285 with a .925 OPS, 22 home runs, 61 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 367 plate appearances. Even after receiving the elbow surgery recommendation in September, Ohtani continued to hit over the final month of the season, batting .310 with a 1.003 OPS and seven home runs.
For all his success, Ohtani said he still felt dissatisfied by the overall trajectory of his rookie campaign since his elbow trouble limited him to only 104 games with the Angels.
"Putting numbers aside, I was kind of disappointed I wasn't able to play a full season," Ohtani said. "I feel like elite players should be able to play the full year and help out the team. That's something that I need to work on. That's going to be one of my goals: stay healthy and help the team to win from Day 1."
Ohtani is currently in the early stages of his rehab from Tommy John surgery, which is expected to keep him off the mound until the 2020 season but shouldn't prevent him from contributing with his bat next year.
"Everything is going well," Ohtani said. "We're right on schedule, maybe even a little ahead. I'm very satisfied with where I'm at right now."
Former Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui, who's currently coaching the MLB All-Stars at the Japan Series and was the runner-up in the 2003 AL Rookie of the Year voting after coming over from Japan, said Ohtani's results speak for themselves.
"He really deserves this award, and as one Japanese baseball fan, I was really happy that he won it. As a member of the Yankees, I can't really say that too loudly. But I wish him well in his years to come and I want to congratulate him on winning such a nice award."
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter.