Shohei Ohtani has completed meetings with the seven finalists for his services, reportedly going through an exhaustive set of seven face-to-face meetings in Los Angeles over a 48-hour period. Now that he’s met with each of the Mariners, Padres, Cubs, Angels, Rangers, Dodgers and Giants, Ohtani will spend anywhere from the next few days to the next two weeks deciding on where he’ll sign his first pro contract in the United States. He has until Dec. 22 to make that call, though the expeditious manner in which he met with the finalists lends some speculative optimism that he could reach a conclusion well before that deadline.
Here’s the latest on Ohtani…
- Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic writes (subscription required & recommended) that there are those in the game who wonder if Ohtani’s decision has already been made. The expedited manner in which Ohtani eliminated 23 teams and then met with seven finalists has been a point of frustration for some clubs, Rosenthal writes, noting that execs from some East coast teams have privately wondered why they were asked to put so much time into their presentations for Ohtani when he ultimately eliminated the East coast in one swoop.
- Giants GM Bobby Evans tells John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that in addition to manager Bruce Bochy and several front office executives, the Giants brought Buster Posey to their meeting with Ohtani and his representatives. Ohtani’s translator said at the meeting that the 23-year-old was impressed by Posey’s “great aura, and Evans tells Shea that Ohtani has watched and admired Posey’s play in the World Series and other settings. The Giants envision Ohtani starting once per week, and Evans wouldn’t even rule out the possibility of him playing some center field. “Some scouts see him being able to play all three [outfield positions] very capably,” says Evans. “It’s a matter of what’s best for him.”
- In an excellent column at MLB.com, Mike Petriello utilizes Statcast to break down Ohtani’s skills and generate comps based on current big league stars. MLB.com obtained Trackman data on Ohtani’s 2017 season, giving them 231 plate appearances and six starts to dive into, and while the sample is small, it’s certainly enough to see some trends in terms of velocity, spin rate and average exit velocity. Per Petriello, Ohtani’s average 97.5 mph fastball would’ve ranked second among MLB starters, and his max velocity of 101.6 mph would rank among the hardest pitches thrown by any starter in the Statcast era. The velocity and spin rate on Ohtani’s fastball are strikingly similar to Luis Severino, Petriello points out (though spin rate may not be a direct comp due to the different balls used between MLB and NPB). On the offensive side of the coin, Ohtani’s max 111.1 mph exit velocity was greater than the hardest-hit ball of more than 70 percent of MLB players in ’17. His exit velo on fly-balls and liners ranks alongside several of the game’s top overall sluggers. The fascinating column only further builds intrigue around what Ohtani can do in a Major League setting.
- Fangraphs’ Travis Sawchik, meanwhile, notes that the Cubs can offer a unique benefit that no other suitor can: (relatively) limited travel time. While all Major League players spend an obscene amount of time flying from destination to destination, the Cubs’ setting in the Midwest means they travel as many as 10,000 miles less per season than the Rangers and upwards of 23,000 fewer miles than the Angels and Mariners in a given season (based on Chris Ford’s mileage estimates for the 2017 campaign). It may be a minor benefit, but as Sawchik notes, for a player whose recovery time will be monitored closely than just about any in baseball as he attempts the rigors of two-way play (at least to some extent), there’s some degree of appeal.