During the 2018 MLB offseason, there were many big name players looking to sign mega deals, like JD Martinez, Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Eric Hosmer.
But what looks like the best deal so far in the young season is Shohei Ohtani. The Los Angeles Angels inked Ohtani to a six-year, $200 million contract in December 2017.
Ohtani is a rare baseball talent in that he hits at a high level and pitches at an even higher level.
Baseball hasn’t seen such a versatile two-way player since Babe Ruth.
But right from the start, the Japanese star faced many critics and skeptics. Many said he would never be a successful hitter against MLB pitching. Others beleived MLB hitters would crush his pitching and many saying he would never live up to the hype.
The criticism only intensified during spring training, when Ohtani was less than impressive.
He pitched just 2.2 innings in the spring, and gave up nine hits and eight earned runs.
Batters hit for an average of .529 against him and belted three home runs.
Ohtani featured a very good breaking ball, but a flat fastball that appeared to be very hittable during his spring training starts.
The 23-year old has been the exact opposite during the regular season. Ohtani has been sharp on the mound and even sharper at the plate.
Ohtani has started two games on the mound for the Angels and has been nothing short of spectacular.
So far, Ohtani is 2-0, with a 2.08 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 13 innings.
But Ohtani’s most impressive performance came on April 8, against the Oakland A’s.
Ohtani took a perfect game into the 7th inning before Marcus Siemien hit a single to break it up.
In the near perfect game bid, Ohtani struck out 12 batters and allowed only the one hit in his 7 innings of work.
Hitters have an average of under .100 against him so far in the regular season, much different than the .500+ average against him in the spring.
As impressive as he has been on the mound, Ohtani has been arguably better as a hitter.
On most of his off days from the mound, Ohtani plays designated hitter for the Angels and bats eighth in the lineup.
He has been the DH so far in four games for LA and is putting together very impressive numbers.
In 18 at-bats, Ohtani has seven hits, three homeruns, seven RBIs, and is batting .389.
To put his statistics in perspective, Ohtani has numbers comparable to 2017 NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw while pitching, and while batting, his numbers are very similar to 2017 AL MVP runner-up Aaron Judge.
Judge is hitting .340 with 3 HRs and 8 RBIs, and Kershaw has a 1.89 ERA and 19 strikeouts.
If one thing is for sure, Ohtani is the real deal and will be playing in the MLB at a high level for a long time.
Ohtani is well on his way to winning the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year award and is definitely a contender in the 2018 MVP race.