One of the biggest baseball stories ahead of MLB’s Opening Day 2018 involved which team might acquire the services of Shohei Otani and if he’ll live up to the hype. The Los Angeles Angels won the bidding battle over other suitors and were able to sign Otani to a deal, turning them into potential contenders down the road if he can meet expectations. The dual-threat player has been participating in Spring Training games, and despite a “rocky Spring,” Bob Nightengale has said he’s expected to make the roster. That could give him a chance to really show what he’s capable of.
Nightengale said in the recent USA Today column that two “two high-ranking Angels executives” informed USA Today Sports that Otani will be part of the opening day roster. However, those sources asked to be kept anonymous due to the fact rosters won’t be officially decided and made known publicly until Opening Day. That’s Thursday, March 29, just a week from today. The expectation as of right now is that Otani will be a designated hitter on the lineup card for Thursday’s first game of the season against the Oakland Athletics. He’ll be the team’s starting pitcher two days later on March 31 when they visit the A’s for an away game.
The 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher and outfielder has participated in 10 games of the Spring Training season. Unfortunately, he’s shown some early issues, as he’s batting just 0.107 at the plate in his 28 at-bats. He’s struck out nine times and provided three hits, along with an RBI. He’s also walked three times, but those aren’t numbers that make Otani appear to be a legitimate threat just yet.
The Angels have gone 12-15 in the Cactus League this Spring, which doesn’t necessarily mean much for their regular season success. The team was 80-82 last season finishing not far off from the Wild Card Minnesota Twins (85-77). That possibly suggests that the Angels’ lineup can still succeed as Otani improves, or starts to really step up his game and his abilities take off. After all, they do have a guy named Mike Trout.
It’s been said that Ichiro Suzuki also struggled a bit when he first started in the league after arriving. Others feel that Otani just isn’t ready and needs more time in the minors at the start of the season. The flip side is that by keeping Otani as a designated hitter at least at the beginning of the season, they could eventually replace him on the roster.
Comparisons might be drawn between basketball rookie Lonzo Ball who also plays in Los Angeles, should Shohei Otani be unable to fully show what he’s got. However, it’s just these players’ first seasons, and the good news for Otani is he doesn’t seem to have a LaVar Ball touting his abilities and future achievements before he can display them.