When Shohei Ohtani signed with the "boring" Los Angeles Angels this off-season and “ran away" from the bright lights of New York, a lot of people were mad. They wanted to see Ohtani, supposedly Japan’s Babe Ruth, pitch and hit on the biggest stage possible. I get it. It would’ve been awesome for baseball if Ohtani was able to come over and dominate right away. It would’ve been awesome if he came over and dominated right away in a market like New York. There were (still are) reasons to be skeptical that he would be able to play so well right away however, which is why I wrote that Ohtani signing with the Angels was actually good for baseball. It’ll let him develop without the lights being too bright.
My goodness does it look like he make the right decision so far. Can you imagine if this 23-year-old kid was playing for the Yankees right now with how poorly his spring has gone? As far as spring hype goes the Ohtani sensation hasn’t really even been a sensation. He’s been downright bad this spring. His spring pitching stats show that he's given up 8 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings, but he's also been getting lit up in "B" games that don't reflect in his official spring stats. Optimists will at least point out that his "stuff" looks good. That's true. It has. He has been even worse at the plate though. Ohtani is hitting .107 (3-for-28) thus far. All of his hits are singles. Some people already want him to quit the hitting/pitching experiment. Others want to see him sent to the minors.
Even if Ohtani were having a good spring I would still have concerns. Let’s start with the culture change. This isn't really anything we haven't seen before. Players come over from Japan or Cuba or the DR all the time. It's still a factor. Ohtani is a kid. He's only 23. He's no stranger to being a celebrity obviously, but this is a whole different beast. He's far from home. He's in a country where the food is different. Everyone is speaking a different language. Hell even the sport is played a little differently. The Angels are doing their best to accommodate him by going to a 6-man rotation, but Ohtani has to adjust to both pitching AND hitting in the most competitive baseball league in the world. In a new country. Where everything is different.
Also, it's not as if he's been a 200-inning workhorse before. His career high in innings pitched is 160 2/3. That was two years ago. Last season he made just five starts (25 1/3 innings). This isn't getting talked about enough. Even if the Angels do everything they can to manage his workload and even if Ohtani gets off to a good start there are reasons to believe he won't hold up all season. Again, he made just five starts last year. The more you look at it the more obvious it seems like he really won't dominate right away.
All this being said it’s only March 25th, 2018. Anyone with a brain knows that this is a monumental transition Ohtani is undergoing. Its certainly not time to panic yet. Not even close. There's a very real chance that a few months from now (or a few years from now) this will all look silly. But it is important to recognize how hard this is going to be for Ohtani. 3 years from now I would be surprised if he’s still a two-way player. That’s not a knock against him. It’s a knock against everyone. There’s a reason it hasn't been done since George Herman Ruth did it nearly 100 years ago. I want Ohtani to be good because it would be good for baseball. I just think it's time we start tempering our expectations.