Shohei Ohtani moved to 3-1 as a pitcher after six strong innings against the Mariners on Sunday, picking up six strikeouts with only two walks.
Now that we're over a month into his major league career, where do you stand on the 2018 outlook for Ohtani and has your opinion changed on the Angels rookie?
Tristan H. Cockcroft: Ohtani's season has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride to this point, but the sum total of his parts is a player who shouldn't be valued all that differently than I had him at the onset of spring training -- roughly 25th overall at his position. His seasonal numbers tell the story: skills that should produce an ERA In the low-to-mid 3s and a K-per-nine ratio of perhaps 10.5 on the pitching side, and isolated power of .200-.225 on the hitting side. The main drawback is, and always was, volume.
The biggest takeaway we have is the Los Angeles Angels' usage of the guy, which dictates a start a week on the mound and another three to four as the team's DH, plus typically less than six innings per pitching start. The team has given every indication that Ohtani is going to make only about 25 starts as a pitcher, and 75 as a hitter, this season. That's a headache if you're in a league -- say, points-based scoring -- that relies heavily upon volume, or a league that forces you to make a decision on his weekly (rather than daily, in our standard game) role in fantasy. He's just less valuable in those, and he's more valuable in a daily league with minimal games restrictions.
I know I've wavered on him with my rankings, slotting him as high as my No. 15 starting pitcher and as low as No. 35 at times, and that's understandable with a guy with no sample size entering the year and who has experienced this many ups and downs, but as the days pass I think I was just about right on him where he began: 25th.
Eric Karabell: Ohtani the pitcher has been mostly what I expected, with extreme fastball velocity and a filthy out pitch on which only a few hitters have repeatedly shown they can lay off. He is going to get his strikeouts, but there will be times a collective group of hitters makes him throw strikes, as the Astros and Red Sox showed, and he will suffer for it. Still, I doubt we see him reach 150 innings, and it has little to do with his skill. He has to prove he can remain healthy, and that will be tough with him hitting so often.
At the plate, I admit I did not expect Ohtani to look so formidable. He has legit power and has been able to catch up with any fastball so far, and he makes adjustments. We sure did not see this in spring training. With regular plate appearances Ohtani could probably hit 20 home runs in a season, but it seems optimistic to expect this much playing time this since the Angels really, really need him pitching first and have showed caution. He is a top-100 player for me but not one I am actively seeking in trades.
Kyle Soppe: Ohtani experienced a few bumps in the road with starts against the Red Sox and Astros, but he has generally been impressive and I'll admit that I was low on him coming into this season. That said, he has allowed a home run in four of five starts and has walked seven batters against 13 strikeouts over his last two outings (after walking four and striking out 19 in his first three starts). He's a pitcher who is going to rack up the strikeouts and give you quality starts more often than not, but I'm not yet considering him an elite option. We've got a clear top tier of pitchers and then a secondary tier of aces -- I've got Ohtani among the top pitchers in Tier 3, and that's well above where I had him six weeks ago.
AJ Mass: It's certainly a lot easier to win when your lineup is scoring six runs per start, so the win-loss record means even less to me from Ohtani than most pitchers -- especially given the 4.10 ERA. In terms of average game score, which is a stat I tend to rely upon as an accurate measure of to-date performance, especially in points formats, the Angels pitcher is not all that impressive.
Of the 151 pitchers who have started at least three games through Sunday, Ohtani ranks No. 49 on this list at 55.6. It's hard for me to get too excited about a guy who essentially falls in the range of a No. 5 SP in 10-team leagues. In Ohtani's particular case, it's even harder, since the Angels have opted to give him nearly a week of rest between those starts. Even if he was hurling nothing but shutouts, the lack of consistent starts has to depress his value.
I had Ohtani ranked at No. 233 in my preseason top 300 rankings for points leagues. Prior to Sunday's outing I had moved him up to No. 207 in my going-forward ranks. So while I've been somewhat impressed with what he's done thus far, I'll need to be sure he's going to have the opportunity to do it far more often before my outlook will change all that much.