A big part of what makes Shohei Ohtani so intriguing to clubs is the tantalizing two-way factor. So much about the Japanese star, even still, as a reported seven finalists via for his services, is shrouded in mystery. But two main facts are known: Ohtani can pitch, and he can
A big part of what makes Shohei Ohtani so intriguing to clubs is the tantalizing two-way factor. So much about the Japanese star, even still, as a reported seven finalists via for his services, is shrouded in mystery. But two main facts are known: Ohtani can pitch, and he can hit.
Whether Ohtani will, and to how much success, at the big league level, remains to be seen. But the prospect of it all remains salivating: Imagine a true two-way star, a difference maker on the mound and at the plate. People like to cite Babe Ruth as the last one, but truth is, Ruth stopped pitching in 1920, when his career at the plate really took off. The century since produced zero two-way stars, for a variety of reasons.
That doesn't mean Major League Baseball is devoid of players who could succeed doing both. In fact, the sport is littered with versatile talent, and many of the best players were often the best players as amateurs, which means they played everywhere. Then as professionals, they specialized. It happened to Dave Winfield. It happened to Josh Hamilton. John Olerud. And many less heralded others.
All of which got us thinking: If you could create a lineup of two-way players, which current big leaguers would you want? Which guys have a history of doing both, even if they weren't given the opportunity at the big league level? Who are the players you want if your bullpen played the field?
In honor of Ohtani's imminent arrival, here is MLB.com's ultimate two-way team, picking one player at each position who once dominated on the mound or at the plate before sticking to one specialty.
Buster Posey, Giants
Posey wasn't just one of the best collegiate players in the country at Florida State, he was also one of the most versatile, manning shortstop for long stretches and once playing all nine positions in one game. His coaches stopped toying with him on the mound when it became clear he would be a top pick as a catcher, but he actually worked as the Seminoles' closer during his freshman year. Posey saved six games that season, allowing just one earned run in nine appearances. He pitched to two batters during his junior year, as part of the nine-position game, and struck out both of them.
Posey gets the nod here over Padres catcher-turned pitcher Christian Bethancourt, who made the transition from behind the plate to atop the mound last season.
Mitch Moreland, free agent
Moreland was a legitimate two-way star at Mississippi State from 2005-07, excelling on both sides of the ball in the ultra-talented Southeastern Conference. He dominated as a junior, hitting .363 with 10 home runs while going 3-0 with a 3.20 ERA over 16 relief appearances. Moreland struck out 28 batters in 19 2/3 innings that season. He was drafted in the 17th round as a hitter, but he has logged two scoreless innings of emergency relief in his Major League career, including a shutout inning against the Orioles this past August that included a strikeout of Caleb Joseph.
Jordy Mercer, Pirates
Yes, Mercer is technically the Pirates' shortstop. But he has played second base in his career, and there aren't a lot of second basemen in the Majors who once pitched because guys who end up at second often do so because they lack the arm strength of shortstop or third.
Mercer was such a good relief pitcher at Oklahoma State that it felt wrong to leave him off this fictional team. He set the Cowboys' school record with 17 career saves.
Andrelton Simmons, Angels
How many times have we seen the Angels' shortstop unleash his all-world arm from across the diamond? Simmons used to bring such firepower from the mound. Rumor has it he hit 98 mph pitching for Western Oklahoma State College in 2010, when he posted a 0.90 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 10 innings. This season, Simmons' hardest tracked throw for an out was measured at 91.4 mph by Statcast™.
Andrew Romine, Mariners
The 31-year-old is the ultimate utility player, as we saw late this season when Romine became the fifth player in MLB history to play all nine positions in one game. He had three emergency relief appearances in 2017 and didn't allow a run, which means he could sub in anywhere whenever one of his two-way teammates needs to hop on the mound. And hey, remember, Romine hit 88.6 mph with his heater, as tracked by Statcast™, during his one inning of work this season.
Nick Markakis, Braves
The Braves' right fielder was one of the best two-way Draft prospects in history coming out of junior college in 2003. That season, Markakis led national junior college players in pitcher wins, strikeouts ... and RBIs. The Reds originally drafted him as a starter, but he returned to school and the Orioles took him as an outfielder the next season.
Charlie Blackmon, Rockies
One of the most productive players in baseball in 2017 might not have been a position player at all had his pitching elbow not acted up as a senior at Georgia Tech. Blackmon turned from left-handed hurler into the team's leadoff hitter, hit .396 and was drafted in the second round by Colorado. The rest is Rocky Mountain history.
Aaron Hicks, Yankees
Hicks was a first-round pick as an outfielder out of high school in California in 2008 -- and some think he could have gone higher had he registered as a pitcher. He hit 97 mph on the mound as a teenager, and he still has the arm. One of Hicks' outfield assists was tracked at 105.5 mph in 2016, ranking for a long time as the hardest outfield throw ever measured by Statcast™.
Madison Bumgarner, Giants
Bumgarner was a North Carolina high school legend, not just on the mound but at the plate. It's interesting to think about how many homers he could hit over a full MLB season; his 17 career jacks lead all active pitchers.
All of which makes Bumgarner the obvious choice if you're just picking one starter for one game. However, if you want to round out a two-way rotation, look no further than former college shortstop Jacob deGrom and super-athletes Marcus Stroman and Mike Leake.
Sean Doolittle, Nationals
The Nationals' closer was drafted by the A's in the first round as a first baseman/outfielder in 2007 after raking for the University of Virginia ... and posting some of the best pitching numbers in school history. Fun fact: Doolittle hit 11 homers as a UVA freshman in 2005, while teammate Ryan Zimmerman -- he of the 251 big league home runs -- hit four.
Doolittle never found his power stroke in the Minors, though, and he returned to pitching after several knee injuries, emerging as a reliable closer in 2014. He once brought patience and big-time power to the plate, which is why he gets the nod on this team over former Minor League catcher Kenley Jansen and onetime shortstop standout Mychal Givens.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.