There have been so many Major League Baseball phenomenons over the years. In the 80’s it was Pitcher  Fernando Valenzuela, 2-sport stars Bo Jackson and Deion ‘Prime Time’ Sanders, the 90’s (Well actually, 1989) it was Pitcher  Jim Abbott who pitched with one hand. In the beginning of the new century, it was Japanese stars Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui.

As great as those players were, they weren’t as unique as the current phenom that has invaded MLB, and that is Japanese player Shohei Ohtani who was signed by the LA Angels. What makes him so special: He’s a 2-position player. And not just one who occasionally plays different positions, but one who does them full time. In other words, he’s a pitcher, outfielder and designated hitter, a 3-way player.

And mind you, he’s good at it.

 

Ohtani is a throwback to the Little League, Pony League and High School baseball days when players would pitch one day and play the outfield, infield or catcher the next. That options changes in college baseball in which a player is either a pitcher (with the exception of the DH) or a position player and it continues at the Major League level.

Now there isn’t a rule that says a position player can’t pitch and vice-versa, as we have seen position players pitch or pitchers play in the outfield. But those were in certain situations, or in gimmick plays, Ohntani’s role is permanent.

 

Here’s an example of what Ohtani did in the Pacific League: In 2016, he had a breakout season as a hitter. In 104 games and 382 plate appearances, he hit 22 home runs. He also hit 18 doubles, 67 RBI, batted .322 with an OBP of .416, scored 65 runs and had 7 stolen bases. He won the Best Nine award as the designated hitter. Ohtani was the same dominant pitcher on the mound. In 21 games pitched, he had a career low in ERA at 1.86. He had a 10–4 record, struck out 174 batters in 140 innings with 4 complete games and one shutout. n 2017, he played in 65 games, hitting .332 with 8 homers and 31 RBIs while going 3–2, 3.20 with 29 strikeouts on the mound.

 

In the 2017 offseason, Ohtani entertained several teams, but chose the LA Angels who signed him to a multi-year deal. And how has he done so far? On April 1, he made his pitching debut, striking out six batters in six innings but allowing three runs to pick up the win. On April 3, Ohtani hit his first career home run, a 397-foot three-run home run/ On the following day, he hit another one to become the first Angels player to homer in his first two career home games. He tied the franchise record of 12 total bases, and five RBI through his first three career games (both set by Bobby Clark in 1979). On April 6, he hit his third home run in three days, becoming the first Angels rookie to do so. In only his second start on the mound on April 8, Ohtani took a perfect game through 6 and​1⁄3 innings before allowing a hit. Overall, Ohtani pitched seven scoreless innings while striking out 12.

So far as a pitcher, he’s 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 18 strikeouts, and as a hitter, he’s hitting .389 with 3 HR and 7 RBI. He also has 7 hits and 4 strikeouts. He’s proven to be for real. Question is, can he maintain this for all 162 games and a postseason if LA makes it that far?

Time will tell, but until then, enjoy what this kid can do.

Please e-mail Ray at ray@urbanmediatoday.com
Follow him @urbanmediaRay on twitter

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