The struggles of Shohei Ohtani this spring have been well-documented already, and while he’s ranked as one of the top prospects in baseball in most publications, scouts have been vocal about some weaknesses in his game. Ohtani would seem to be a significant part of the Angels’ plans for 2018, but GM Billy Eppler recently said that the club has made no assurances to Ohtani that he’ll be on the opening day roster (report: Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times). “In our universe, we are evaluating this in a vacuum,” said Eppler. “Is this 23-year-old prospect ready to make an impact on both sides of the ball?” The decision to start Ohtani in the minors (if a serious consideration) would certainly make sense from a development perspective, and would come with the enormous benefit of giving the Angels an extra year of control over the two-way Japanese phenom, if he were to spend at least 15 days at Triple-A. Of course, such a decision would surely come with a storm of controversy as well.
Elsewhere in the AL West…
- Greg Johns of MLB.com writes that the injury to Ryon Healy might have presented an opportunity for Mariners first baseman Dan Vogelbach, who’s opened some eyes this spring by hitting .405 with nine extra-base hits and nine walks in 37 at-bats during Cactus League play. “Vogey deserves to be on this club,” said GM Jerry DiPoto. “He has raked from day one. He has controlled the strike zone really better than anybody in the Cactus League. What he’s doing with the bat is reminiscent of what he’s kind of always done in the Minor Leagues, but we’ve never had the opportunity to see in the big leagues.” He also offered high praise for right-hander Rob Whalen, who was acquired from the Braves a year ago and has proved dominant this spring after coming into camp 25 pounds lighter.
- Athletics right-hander Jharel Cotton will officially undergo Tommy John surgery according to a report earlier today. “I’m trying to take it as best I can, and just get ready for the long process, the long road ahead,” Cotton said in a video tweeted by Jane Lee of MLB.com. “I just gotta work hard with the rehab and come back stronger, so that’s what I’m gonna do.” Cotton’s absence in the rotation will leave the A’s a bit thin on starters, which the club has reportedly acknowledged; manager Bob Melvin has suggested that they might look at free agent pitching options, if prices have come down (h/t Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle). One way they don’t plan on filling the rotation void is with top prospect A.J. Puk, according to club president Billy Beane. Via another tweet from Lee, Beane had the following comments when asked if Puk was a legitimate option for the opening day rotation: “If he is, it’s only because we don’t have a lot of options. Do I think it’s ideal to call upon a kid who has half a year at Double-A? No. That would not be the preferred route.”