Shohei Ohtani’s debut will be one of the major stories of the 2018 season, and in a fascinating piece, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register talks to five sources (Ohtani’s former manager and signing scout with the Nippon Ham Fighters, and three former MLB players who played with Ohtani in Japan) to gauge how the 23-year-old will fare with the Angels. While all five agree that Ohtani will have to make some inevitable adjustments to Major League Baseball, all believe he’ll be a success — interestingly, manager Hideki Kuriyama and scout Takashi Ofuchi think Ohtani will be better as a hitter than as a pitcher. Former Yankees and Astros infielder Brandon Laird described Ohtani as “at his age, he’s one of the best, if not the best player I’ve ever seen or had the chance to play with,” after three years as his teammate on the Fighters. “He’s almost like a 10-tool player, a pitcher and hitter who can do it all.” For more opinions on what Ohtani might bring to the table, MLBTR’s Chuck Wasserstrom compiled an in-depth scouting report on Ohtani last May based on talking to five international-scouting figures from MLB teams.
Here’s more from both the AL and NL West…
- It was reported earlier this week by FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman that Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick had met with Scott Boras several times this offseason in regards to J.D. Martinez, and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link) notes that Kendrick and Boras met again as recently as this week. Since the Red Sox appear to be the only other known suitor for Martinez’s services, there still seems to be at least a chance that Martinez could return to Arizona, though some creativity may be required via the design of Martinez’s contract or in how the D’Backs could carve out payroll space to afford him. That is, unless, Boras (who has a history of negotiating directly with owners) can just convince Kendrick to greatly increase what will already be a team record-high payroll in 2018.
- The Rangers could be entering their last Spring Training with Elvis Andrus (opt-out clause), Adrian Beltre (free agency), and Cole Hamels ($20MM club option for 2019) all in the fold, making this season a pivotal one for the franchise, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes. That makes the Rangers’ relative lack of spending this offseason stand out, though Wilson suggests that the team could be preparing to make a bigger splash in the star-studded 2018-19 free agent class, particularly if some, or all, of the Andrus/Beltre/Hamels salaries are no longer on the books.
- Several Rockies starters performed well in 2017, and their potential and continued development could make the team’s 2018 rotation the best in franchise history, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. Colorado will head into the season with Jon Gray, Chad Bettis, German Marquez, Tyler Anderson, Kyle Freeland, Jeff Hoffman, and Antonio Senzatela all in the mix for rotation jobs, though it seems likely that all seven (and more starters) will required due to the inevitable wear-and-tear of a full season’s workload. The depth will also help guard against any struggles from this still young and largely-unproven group of pitchers.