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Shohei Ohtani's Offensive Upside


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By Jonathan Northrop, AngelsWin.com Columnist

I wrote a post several weeks back about Ohtani’s overall upside, positing that as good of a hitter as he is, his pitching upside is just greater. Whereas he could turn into a top 20 hitter, he could be a top 5 pitcher – his stuff is just that good. Of course the problem is volatility. A hitter’s peak value is generally only eroded by chronic injuries, while a pitcher’s entire career can be put into jeopardy by a single injury.

Anyhow, I wanted to talk about Ohtani’s upside as a hitter, inspired by his bomb off Verlander. As of this writing (after the bomb) he’s hitting .276/.353/.542 with a 144 wRC+ and 14 HR in 253 PA. He’s got a 10.3% BB rate and a 28.5% K rate. His BABIP is pretty high at .345, but not so much that we should expect huge regression. In other words, Ohtani has produced close to a .900 OPS, is on pace for 30+ HR over a full season, and his wRC+ would be tied with Manny Machado for 12th best in the majors if he qualified.

In other words, Shohei is already a top 20 hitter in his first season.

One thing that is easy to forget, or at least that I forget, is that he only just turned 24 years old. He’s a few months younger than Taylor Ward and David Fletcher. So while he played in the Japanese majors for a few years, he’s still young enough that he should improve – maybe substantially so. I don’t expect him to become one of the very best hitters in the majors, but he could be close.

What do you see as his offensive upside? Given what we’ve seen so far, how much better can and will he get? Obviously his big issue is hitting left-handers. Compare his splits before tonight:

vs. RHP: .307/.379/.626, 172 wRC+ in 183 PA

vs. LHP: .167/.265/.233, 45 wRC+ in 68 PA

That 172 wRC+ vs RHP is good for 4th in the majors among players with at least 100 PA, behind only JD Martinez, Mike Trout, and Jose Ramirez, and just ahead of Mookie Betts.

That 45 wRC+ vs LHP, on the other hand, is #303 out of 327 batters with 50+ PA vs lefties. Ouch.

He can only get better against left-handers. Let’s say he consolidates against right-handers. All of a sudden his .276/.353/.542 line becomes something like .290/.370/.580, maybe better in peak years. Crazy to think.


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