“Shohei Ohtani could start every All Star Game as an outfielder if he wanted to.” Those are words left fielder Justin Upton said about his teammate in an interview last week.
And it got me thinking, how many positions could Shohei Ohtani be an All Star caliber player at? While the LA Angels have said he is strictly a designated hitter in 2019, and won’t be playing in the field at all. However, in an alternate universe, let’s say Ohtani wants to play every position for a full season in the majors.
To start things, we already know what Ohtani brings as a pitcher. Despite the small sample size and injury, Ohtani showed last season he can be a legitimate ace in the American League, and would be an easy choice for the All Star Game if he made his weekly starts consistently.
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Another easy choice is as a designated hitter. The only other competition for this spot would be Boston’s J.D Martinez. While he may be the superior player, he does play outfield sparingly, and the AL roster could definitely fit both.
For the rest of positions, you’d have to look at where Shohei Ohtani would rank in the AL. His bat will carry him at each, but his fielding could hurt his ranking. In the outfield, with eight players making the team last season, the only question would be whether or not Ohtani would start. However, with Aaron Judge, Mookie Betts, and Mike Trout as last year’s starters, Ohtani would more than likely serve as a reserve outfielder.
At third base, his main competition would be Jose Ramirez and Alex Bregman. This is one position where Ohtani might not make it, as both of them already have the reputation as two of the best young third basemen in the league. However, if Ohtani were to play the opposite corner at first, you could pencil him in as a starter from Opening Day. Jose Abreu of the White Sox and Mitch Moreland of the Red Sox were the two first basemen in last year’s game, and Ohtani is far-and-away better than either of them.
Up the middle, the two positions where Ohtani would arguably have the hardest time in the field given his larger frame. Last year’s starters were Jose Altuve (who you can guarantee will he the spot again) and Manny Machado, who may or may not be in the AL next year. His backup was Francisco Lindor, however, who may be an even better player. If Machado were to sign with an NL team or move back to third base, Ohtani could potentially make the roster as a reserve, though it would be an uphill battle.
In retrospect, none of these really matter outside of DH and pitching. Ohtani’s recovery from Tommy John surgery is going incredibly well despite him not being on pace to start Opening Day. And despite all the injury history, the LA Angels and Shohei Ohtani both plan to on him being the staff’s ace and left-handed slugger in 2020 and beyond.