There’s no question that MLB Spring Training is drastically more important to some players than others. Among many reasons, this includes veterans looking to land a roster spot, younger guys trying to prove their worth, and players coming off a down year. Let’s throw Shohei Ohtani in that last category.
Superstars like Mike Trout and Fernando Tatis Jr. can do anything in Spring Training other than getting hurt. Sure, a hitless Trout in March may dictate a few headlines, but nothing more than that. For Ohtani, this Spring Training was vital on a number of different levels, and the two-way phenom has done nothing but shine.
Is Shohei Ohtani going to dominante in 2021?
Ohtani signed with the Los Angeles Angels in December of 2017 and has kept the baseball world holding its breath ever since. He’s a bonafide superstar in the making with everything from the brand potential to the Hall of Fame prospective talent. The only thing he’s missing? Putting it all together for a full MLB season.
When he does, it’s going to be extraordinary. And, if Spring Training is indicative of anything, this could be the season fans witness the whole package. The 26-year-old is a rare talent. The league hasn’t seen a player do what he does in competing seriously as both a pitcher and batter since Babe Ruth back in the early 1900s.
Any player, especially one with less than four full seasons at the MLB level, mentioned in the same sentence as Ruth is special. Ohtani’s 2018 rookie year was a glimpse of this as he went on to win AL Rookie of the Year honors after pitching to a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts in addition to 22 home runs and 61 RBIs at the plate. Injuries derailed his performance on the mound and that eventually caught up to him at the plate.
But, there’s been something unique about this Spring Training. For one, Ohtani is ramping up to commit fully this season on both sides of the ball. According to Yahoo and Manager Joe Maddon, he’s also looking more confident.
Maddon said there’s “more of a lightness about him. He’s smiling, laughing more easily. His confidence is growing.”
Oh, and how can we forget some of the special things he’s doing on the field. On Monday, “Sho Time” launched two towering opposite-field home runs against the Cincinnati Reds. He’s been on a tear at the plate this spring, going 9-for-16 with three home runs, five RBIs, and a monster .563/.556/1.125 hitting line.
The pitching stats aren’t as staggering, but for a pitcher that only appeared in two games last season while continuing to rehab from Tommy John surgery, he’s shown serious promise. Ohtani continues to work on gaining back his full command but has struck out nine batters in just four innings of work. He also consistently touches upper-90s with his heater. There may be a few kinks to work out but Angels management has been thrilled with his stuff on the mound.
If Shohei Ohtani keeps up these strong performances both at the plate and on the mound, the MLB will be witness to the full power of Sho Time in 2021.