At the highest levels of pro baseball, pitchers are usually the players with the lowest batting averages. There’s just not enough time to master both pitching and hitting. Finding a player who excels at both is akin to discovering a unicorn.
That’s why teams are chasing Shohei Ohtani. At just 23 years old, Ohtani is the best pitcher and one of the best batters in Nippon Professional Baseball, the Japanese big leagues. He plays for the Nippon-Ham Fighters, based in Sapporo, but next season, he’ll cross the Pacific to play in the United States. Teams are making their pitches to him right now, and he’s expected to make a decision on his new baseball home by Christmas.
So where might that be? Many observers believe that the Texas Rangers are among the teams that have a real chance to sign him. T.R. Sullivan, who covers the Rangers for MLB.com, says Ohtani is a young, talented pitcher, but what’s unique about him is that he can also swing the bat.
“He’s got some power, he can hit the ball out of the ballpark so everybody’s looking at him as a two-way player that hasn’t happened in baseball in a long, long time,” Sullivan says. “I think what it’s going to come down to is who can accommodate him as far as his hitting and his pitching, who can make him comfortable, who’s got a great place for him to play.”
With stiff competition, it’s unclear whether the Rangers will manage to win over Ohtani.
“I think Dallas is a more cosmopolitan city than it has been in long time past,” Sullivan says, “but I think a lot of it is going to come down to who is going to let him hit and who’s going to let him pitch. You know, who’s got the best ballpark and who’s got a very good team.”
Ultimately, Sullivan’s bet is on the Yankees. “I think everybody thinks the Yankees are the favorites,” he says.
Written by Jen Rice.