Angels

Angels: 162 Games Into Shohei Ohtani’s Career

Shohei Ohtani came over from Japan with as much hype any new player has received in recent memory. It was a lot to live up to; so how has the Angels’ slugger done after playing 162 games?

July 16, 2019, marked Game 162 for Japanese phenom, Shohei Ohtani, giving him a full season’s worth of play with the Angels to judge off. And with the amount of hype he came to the United States with, he was going to be scrutinized more than many top players usually are. The only thing that helped was that he played in quiet and overlooked Anaheim.

His debut was highly-anticipated, rivaling that of any top prospect this decade, and perhaps this century. But when you are described as the “Japanese Babe Ruth” and are said to be able to hit 500-foot home runs and throw 100 miles-per-hour with control, it comes with the territory.

So, how has he fared thus far? It appears that he’s doing just fine.

As a rookie in 2018, Ohtani posted a .925 OPS with 22 home runs in 367 plate appearances, en route to winning the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year award. He was in the top 4% of the league in Average Exit Velocity, top 2% in Barrel Rate, top 3% in Expected Slugging, and top 5% in wOBA, per Baseball Savant.

And this year, the left-handed hitter is hitting a robust .298/.354/.544 with 14 home runs in 58 games while placing in the top 2% in Average Exit Velocity.

But this is with him dealing with rust during his first month back from injury. Remember, he played with a torn UCL for parts of 2018 and didn’t make his 2019 debut until May 7th. But since June 4th, the Angels’ DH has raked to a tune of a 1.090 OPS and 11 long balls in 138 plate appearances.

This all adds up to the 25-year-old hitting .290/.358/.556 (144 OPS+) with 36 home runs, 69 total extra-base hits, 16 stolen bases, a .382 wOBA, and 146 wRC+ in his first 162 games (607 total plate appearances) since his Major League debut.

Per FanGraphs, he ranks 14th in OPS and wOBA among 216 MLB players with at least 600 plate appearances since the start of 2018, and ninth in wRC+. Not too shabby.

To put it into perspective, these are the numbers for Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Cody Bellinger through their first 607ish plate appearances:

Mike Trout: .308/.374/.528, 29 home runs, 45 stolen bases, .397 wOBA, 159 wRC+ (606 PA)

Bryce Harper: .274/.342/.490, 24 homers, .358 wOBA, 125 wRC+ (605 PA)

Cody Bellinger: .271/.350/.568, 41 home runs, .376 wOBA, 136 wRC+ (605 PA)

Now granted, Trout and Harper were 19-year-old babies at the time of their debuts, while Bellinger was 21. But Ohtani wasn’t exactly an older man either when he debuted; he was still just 23.

But what makes the Angels’ slugger so impressive is that he also has the makings of an ace.

Ohtani is armed with a fastball that averages high-90s velocity, with the ability to touch triple digits with ease. He has a nasty split-fingered fastball and slider which help make his curveball that much deadlier. And he put this all on display as a rookie before the injury.

In ten starts, the Japanese star tossed 51.2 innings while posting a 3.31 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 63 strikeouts. Included among this was a seven-inning, one hit, one walk, twelve-strikeout gem against the eventual 97-win Oakland A’s. And in that game, he was hitting 99 miles-per-hour in the seventh inning, showing that he can sustain the velocity.

Now, he has a bit more to prove before we can call him an elite hitter or pitcher, but it’s hard to argue against the Angels having baseball’s most talented player in Mike Trout Shohei Ohtani.

Talent does not require track record; it’s independent of that. It’s based on upside and projectability, and no one else has the two-way ability of this young man.

It’s way too early to think about MVP and Cy Young awards, but he’s proving he can hit like an MVP-caliber player to form arguably the most dangerous 1-2 punch on offense with Trout; all while possessing the ability to serve as a legitimate ace. It’s fair to say so far so good for Ohtani and the Angels.

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Featured Image via Flickr/sgreene0310

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