This is what happens when you put Shohei Ohtani and Michael Trout together: You have baseball's most interesting team. Say hello to your 2018 Los Angeles Angels.To an Angels team already poised to get significantly better, we will now be able to watch the best baseball player of this generation
This is what happens when you put Shohei Ohtani and Michael Trout together: You have baseball's most interesting team. Say hello to your 2018 Los Angeles Angels.
To an Angels team already poised to get significantly better, we will now be able to watch the best baseball player of this generation line up beside the most intriguing player of 2018.
:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::
That's the bottom line from a day in which Ohtani announced he would sign with the Angels and attempt to do something no Major League player has done in 99 years.
We do not know if this great experiment will work, and that's one of the coolest parts of this whole deal. Once Babe Ruth played his final season with the Red Sox in 1919, he basically was done with being a two-way player.
No one has done it since.
Ohtani is 23 years old, a right-handed pitcher and left-handed hitter. His fastball averaged 98 mph in 2017 for the Nippon-Ham Fighters.
Let's pause for a moment right there.
There's a certain unknown quantity in Ohtani's ability to both pitch and hit. Actually, there's a certain unknown quantity in every part of his game as he makes the transition from Japan to the Major Leagues.
But there's no unknown about the quality of his skillset. MLB.com's Mike Petriello used Statcast™ data to compare Ohtani's pitch velocity to that of Albertin Chapman, Nathan Eovaldi and Noah Syndergaard. And in terms of velocity and spin rate, Ohtani's fastball is almost identical to that of Luis Severino.
Ohtani topped out at 102 mph -- one evaluation had him at 103 mph -- and that alone would make him the most-watched pitcher next season.
And then there's the bat.
Petriello studied Ohtani's exit velocity and found it comparable to Freddie Freeman's and Yoenis Cespedes'. If those are your two best comparisons as a hitter, you're in pretty good shape.
Again, there are differences in the quality of pitching Ohtani will be facing, the number of games, etc. But the bottom line is we simply haven't seen a player with a chance to do these two very different things at a high level.
No one knows how it will work out. Will he pitch on Monday, take Tuesday off and then incorporate his daily between-start pitching preparation into work as a designated hitter, first baseman or outfielder?
Plenty of people in and around the game aren't sure a player can do both. They see the work that a Max Scherzer or Clayton Kershaw puts in between starts and wonder how a guy would then be able to play a nine-inning game unless it's as a DH.
All we know for sure is that the Angels -- just like every team that met with Ohtani -- convinced him they were willing to try. The Rangers and Mariners had more money to offer, but the Angels had the better sales pitch. In Mike Scioscia, the Angels have a manager who has a long history of getting the best from his players. If there's a way to make this thing work, Scioscia will figure it out.
If you love this sport, this is the kind of day you live for. To put Trout, who is on track to be one of the 10 best players ever, alongside Ohtani will be something every baseball fan will want to see.
If you have seen video of Ohtani, you probably noticed that he carries himself the way the great ones do. You've probably also noticed that he seems unfazed by the cameras and microphones, that he has been covered so intensely for so long that the attention he'll garner next spring will be no big deal.
The Angels were already optimistic about their team. General manager Billy Eppler has already re-signed outfielder Justin Upton and added veteran reliever Jim Johnson.
Eppler has a second baseman at the top of his to-do list, but if Garrett Richards, Matthew Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney can stay healthy, the Angels may be good enough to compete with almost anyone.
Have they made up the 21 games they finished behind the Astros in the American League West last season? Hey, that's why they'll play the games. No team has taken bigger steps in the right direction this offseason. As for the rest of it -- and how this whole thing plays out -- that's the fun part of the deal.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.