Fantasy Implications - Shohei Ohtani to Angels

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Los Angeles Angels pitcher/outfielder Shohei Ohtani signed with the Angels from Japan this offseason, spurning bigger contracts to join Mike Trout in Los Angeles. He is the biggest Japanese import since Masahiro Tanaka came to the Yankees and the added bonus of his hitting only makes him more interesting for fantasy owners.

Ohtani is coming off of an injury-plagued 2017 season, but fantasy owners are interested to see how his numbers translate to Major League Baseball.

So with a multi-talented Japanese import joining a pitching-desperate Angels team looking to optimize the career of existing star Trout, what is the fantasy impact of Shohei Ohtani's move to the Los Angeles Angels?

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Ohtani Mania Begins Now

In Japan, Ohtani had a 42-15 record and 2.52 ERA in 543 innings, striking out 624 batters, and also had an .859 OPS and back-to-back seasons with a batting average over .320. At 23, Ohtani has already shown that he can thrive in professional baseball. It was a bit disappointing that he was not a part of the World Baseball Classic this past March (he withdrew with an ankle injury), but he did pitch against MLB players in the Suzuki All-Star Series in 2014, pitching in two games.

Ohtani is a potential SP2 this season with a true opportunity to contribute as a hitter as well. That is well known and there is very little else to go through from there, but what does need to be considered is where Ohtani will go in drafts and how do his statistics translate. In 2017, Ohtani hit .332 in 65 games, posting a .942 OPS while finishing 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 25 1/3. While this was a pedestrian season, he was 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA in 2016, clubbing 22 home runs and striking out 174 batters in 140 innings.

Ohtani has never pitched more than 160 2/3 innings in professional ball (which might be a good thing as he is a five-year veteran in Japan, even though he is so young). It is not wise to overpay for Ohtani, especially since it is highly likely that you will lose his hitting statistics, but he has value as a top-25 SP. Fantasy owners also need to be aware that he is coming off of ankle surgery, but Ohtani says that the injury should not hinder his 2018 performance.

As for the injury, Ohtani underwent a platelet-rich plasma shot in October in hopes of treating the elbow pain caused by it. Dr. Masamitsu Tsuchiya said Ohtani has a first-degree sprain in his right UCL. There is no risk for Tommy John surgery yet, however, pitching with a damaged UCL could eventually lead to the surgery. Manager Mike Scioscia is not scared that Ohtani will miss time, but reiterated that the Angels are thinking about using Ohtani as part of a six-man rotation in 2018.

So what do all of these numbers mean for Ohtani and his teammates? First off, Albert Pujols will likely lose playing time, as Ohtani will be the designated hitter on days that he does not pitch and C.J. Cron will split playing time with Pujols on those days. Pujols was ninth in the American League with 101 RBI in 2017, but his .672 OPS last season was much worse than Cron's .838 OPS in the second half. While Ohtani is intriguing as a batter, his real skill is as a pitcher and, unfortunately, the hitter Ohtani and pitcher Ohtani are two different players for fantasy purposes. Since he is two entirely different players, the pitcher Ohtani might be a good addition in the 6th or 7th round and the hitter Ohtani can be selected in the mid-teen rounds, but no higher.


More 2018 Player Outlooks

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