Billy Eppler had been traveling to Japan to scout Shohei Ohtani since 2013, which meant that by the time this spring rolled around, Eppler’s Los Angeles Angels knew pretty much everything there was to know about Ohtani’s on-field ability. They knew about the live arm, they knew about the prodigious power, and, though a bit understated, they knew about the blazing speed. “But video doesn’t do him justice of how he runs,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “You have to see it in person.”
It didn’t truly sink in until Feb. 27, during an afternoon spring training game against the Colorado Rockies. Ohtani bounced a routine grounder to the left side — a potential double-play ball that Ohtani turned into a forceout because he made it down the first-base line so quickly.
“Wow,” one of the Angels’ coaches said from the dugout. “He’s Mike Trout.”cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal
Well, close. Ohtani, as Scioscia correctly pointed out, is the second-fastest player on the Angels, which is amazing when you consider that he is also the most uniquely versatile player in baseball. Ohtani’s average sprint speed, according to Statcast, is 28.2 feet per second, which ranks within the top 25 percent in the majors and isn’t too far behind Trout (29.2 feet per second).
On April 22, in a home game against the San Francisco Giants, Ohtani reached 30 feet per second on a groundout to shortstop Brandon Crawford, a mark that Statcast considers “elite.”
On Friday, while facing the crosstown Los Angeles Dodgers, Ohtani stole second base easily off Kenley Jansen, allowing him to score the tying run with two outs in the ninth inning. The focus then shifted to Ohtani’s stolen-base potential, a subject for which he is surprisingly diffident.
“I think I still lack the skill part in stealing a base,” Ohtani said through his interpreter, “so I only try to go when it’s as close to 100 percent, where I think I can be as safe as possible.”
Scioscia disagreed with Ohtani’s assessment.
“Anytime we’ve given him opportunities to run, he’s gotten good jumps,” he said. “His speed’s there. I haven’t noticed any of those flaws that he might perceive.”
Scouts who have watched the Angels and coaches who are employed by them agree that Ohtani has the ability to be a 20-stolen-bases-a-year threat if he really wanted to be. But he only stole a combined 13 bases while with Japan’s Nippon Ham Fighters from 2013 to 2017, largely because his dual role as a pitcher and a hitter triggered caution as a baserunner.
Ohtani has attempted only two steals with the Angels this season, converting both, but Scioscia denied that any restrictions are in place.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping
“The template that we’re working off, that Billy created, certainly has recovery days in it,” Scioscia said. “It has him doing anything he would need to do on the offensive end — whether it was sliding, going first to third, whatever it would be — and then being ready to take that batting helmet off, put that cap on and go pitch. He’s able to go and play baseball in between.”