After weeks of having MLB franchises court him, Japanese two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani has reportedly made his decision, and he’ll be headed to the West Coast to play in Los Angeles. A report by The Los Angeles Times’ Dylan Hernandez via Twitter on Friday said Ohtani has signed a contract with the Los Angeles Angels.
The news comes four days after it was reported Ohtani visited with the club in Los Angeles. The Angels never confirmed the meeting, but Ohtani also met with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants the same day.
Ohtani, 23, was posted by the Japanese club the Nippon-Ham Fighters last week and had until December 22 to select a team. News earlier this week said that Ohtani and his agent told franchises on the East Coast that he desired to play in a smaller market on the West Coast.
Ohtani is one of the most highly sought after free agents in recent MLB history. His pitching and hitting make him one of the more unique prospects ever. He’s been clocked at over 100 mph with his fastball on the mound and also brings power and consistency at the plate. He’s expressed that he wants to pitch and play in the outfield in the MLB, and reports said the Angels are willing to accommodate that.
Ohtani has commonly been referred to as the “Babe Ruth of Japan,” and he in all likelihood won’t need much, if any, time down in the minors. After an incredible high school career, Ohtani expressed his desire to move to the MLB. However, he was drafted by the Fighters No. 1 overall anyway, even though the club knew there was a possibility he wouldn’t ever play for them. After negotiations, he announced that he would sign and play with the Fighters before eventually jumping to the MLB.
Ohtani made his professional debut in Japan in 2013 and impressed right away. He played in 65 games during the 2017 season and hit .332 with 8 home runs and 31 RBIs. On the mound, he went 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA with 29 strikeouts. He’s coming off of surgery on his right ankle in October, which sidelined him for the World Baseball Classic this past summer.
“I see the appeal,” Dennis Sarfate, a reliever who pitched four seasons in the MLB and won the Japan Pacific League MVP award in 2017, told Baseball America. “I’ve said it from day one, this guy is going to be a superstar, and he is that good.”
Sarfate said while Ohtani is known for his velocity, hi command is an area which needs improvement.
“Everyone thinks his command is good, but I’ve seen him walk three, four guys in a row and it’s because he gets out of sync because he throws so many breaking balls,” Sarfate said to Baseball America. “If he got a catcher that was around for a while and they could actually guide him through it, I think he would eventually be really good.”
Ohtani stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 213 pounds, throwin right handed with four pitches: a four-seam fastball, a forkball, a curveball and a slider. He’s been compared by some MLB scouts to Justin Verlander.