Although they’re on the heels of yet another disappointing campaign, the Angels may be in position to make a significant splash on the pitching market this offseason. Whether or not that happens, though, it’s imperative for the club’s beleaguered starting staff to get a healthy Shohei Ohtani back in 2020. Ohtani, who didn’t pitch this year after undergoing Tommy John surgery last October, is progressing in his recovery from TJS and the left knee procedure he underwent last month, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. The 25-year-old is currently throwing from 100 feet and on schedule to retake the mound toward the end of November, according to Fletcher.
The emergence of Ohtani in 2018, his first stateside season after coming over as a much-ballyhooed Japanese free agent, was one of the most encouraging developments in recent memory for the Angels. Not only did Ohtani star with the bat that year, but he further proved he was worth the free-agent fuss by posting front-end production when he was healthy enough to take the ball. He threw just 51 2/3 innings during a 10-start, injury-limited rookie campaign, but the right-handed hurler made those appearances count with an impressive 3.31 ERA/3.57 FIP, 10.97 K/9 and 3.83 BB/9.
Now, Ohtani’s fresh off another strong (albeit injury-shortened) season as a hitter. The hope is the lefty-swinging DH will continue to provide a solution at that position while enjoying a much healthier year as a pitcher in 2020. If Ohtani’s able to deliver a much larger chunk of innings next year, and if the Angels make some serious noise on the open market (Gerrit Cole? Stephen Strasburg?), it could go a long way toward a much-needed return to contention. The Halos are heading into a crucial offseason in which upgrading their pitching will be a must, regardless of whether general manager Billy Eppler, new skipper Joe Maddon & Co. are counting on substantial contributions from Ohtani.