There may not be a player that has a more exciting set of skills in Major League Baseball than Shohei Otani. The reigning American League MVP has taken the league by storm, at the plate and on the mound.
As one of the cornerstones of the Los Angeles Angels’ batting order, Ohtani hit 46 home runs with 100 RBI’s in 2021. While he displayed prodigious power and production at the plate, opposing teams also had a difficult time containing him on the basepaths. He stole 26 bases last year, which speaks to the level of athleticism he has, and ability to impact the Angels’ offense even when he isn’t driving the ball over the fence.
There have been many players over the years who have been as potent offensively, but Ohtani separates himself from almost every other player in baseball history with what he is able to do as a pitcher. He’s also an integral part of Los Angeles’ rotation, recording a 9-2 record with a 3.18 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 2021. Ohtani closed the season especially strong; he pitched at least seven innings in three out of his last four starts, and struck out at least eight hitters in those games as well.
Ohtani first appeared on to the MLB scene in 2018, at the age of 23. But he was already known for his well rounded talents in Japan, where he started playing professional baseball at the age of 18. Ohtani played for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters for five years. He really started to come into his own during the last two seasons, where he had a combined .326 batting average. In 2016, his plate discipline improved dramatically, as he drew 54 walks in 104 games.
As a young player in Japan, Ohtani’s pitching was what initially made him a star. His production on the mound in 2014 and 2015 was tremendous, striking out 378 hitters in that span, while amassing a record of 26-9. As an 18 year old, he also set the high school record for hardest pitch thrown, at over 99 miles per hour.
He grew up in the town of Oshu, and his father introduced him to the sport he would later excel at. Ohtani started* to play organized baseball when he was eight years old, and was enamored with the professionals he would watch on television.
“I watched baseball players and they looked so cool. I was always anxiously waiting for the weekend so I could play,” he recalled. Via Sportsnet.Ca
Still just 27 years old, the sky is the limit for Ohtani. After his monster season in 2021, attention has started to shift on how long he might call Los Angeles home. His contract with the Angels runs through the 2023 season, and reports indicate that the team has not yet approached his camp about an extension. There is still plenty of time to sort the business part of it out, but Ohtani’s value is so unique that it might be difficult for agents and team representatives to determine how much he is worth. It will be intriguing to see whether his next contract rivals that of fellow Angels teammate Mike Trout.