Call him your favorite new pitcher, outfielder, or hit machine, maybe even baseball’s next luminary. Whatever you call him, Japanese wunderkind Shohei Ohtani will be wearing the red and white jersey of the Los Angeles Angels.
Ohtani, who has spent much of the last week-plus in the U.S. visiting a handful of teams, reportedly made his final decision today, according to a statement released by his agent, Nez Balelo, one of the heads of CAA Sports.
“Shohei is humbled and flattered by all the time and effort that so many teams put into their presentations and sincerely thanks them for their professionalism,” Belelo’s statement said. “In the end, he felt a strong connection with the Angels and believes they can best help him reach his goals in Major League Baseball.”
Part of that “connection” Ohtani may have felt might possibly have to do with the fact that he will be replaying alongside six-time all-star Mike Trout, an outfielder considered by many in baseball to be the game’s most complete position player, as well as a future Hall of Fame player and the best player since Mickey Mantle. Trout also won the American League’s Rookie of the Year Award in 2012 as well as the league’s MVP award in 2014 and 2016.
Meanwhile, the Angels, who have missed the playoffs since 2014, look to add more dimension to their roster in the long term, as well as wins in the short term.
Ohtani, a 6-foot-3, 23-year-old star of Nippon Professional Baseball’s (NPB) Pacific League, has been the talk of baseball since the latter half of 2017. One reason is his fast arm and a four-seam fastball said to top out just over 100 mph. Also, Ohtani’s versatility as a solid bat and reliable outfielder make him a unique, hard-to-find value in a single player.
Reports surfaced late this summer that the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox led the mix of teams likely to grab Ohtani. But after issuing a “no thank you” to the Yankees earlier last week, ESPN reported that Ohtani and his agent had narrowed the list down to seven “finalists.” American League teams in the running included the Angels, Texas Rangers, and Seattle Mariners, while the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs were among the four National League teams Ohtani visited.
Prior to 2017, both Ohtani’s pitching and batting have sparkled, catching the attention not only from baseball scouts all over the globe but also that of Major League executives. Late this season Yankees general manager Brian Cashman reportedly flew 6,700 miles to watch Ohtani from stadium seats behind home plate.
Ohtani, who bats left-handed and throws with his right-handed, played a shortened 2017 after recovering from an ankle injury that occurred at the end of 2016, an injury that also caused him to miss this year’s World Baseball Classic in March. Before the 2017 season, Ohtani threw over 170 strikeouts in each of the last three seasons, spanning 2014 and 2016.
At the plate, Ohtani batted .322 in both 2017 and 2016, while also providing his team solid slugging in the mid .500s both seasons. NPB’s season is made up of 143 games, 19 shorter than the 162 played by Major League Baseball.
With a reasonably solid outfield, it is uncertain that Ohtani will play either left or centerfield much in his first MLB season. But the Angels’ newest international star remains a viable option as both as a designated hitter as well as an important new part of the Angels’ pitching rotation.