While we all know Shohei Ohtani won’t be throwing off a mound until 2020, there is still reason to be very excited for his sophomore campaign. On the glass half empty side, he won’t contribute to the best of his abilities as he rehabs from Tommy John.
Glass half full though? We get to see the reigning Rookie of the Year, which he won largely due to his hitting, spend an entire year at the plate hitting alongside Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Justin Upton.
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While Ohtani will start the season on the IL, the Angels have said he’ll be ready as soon as early May. He has progressed at a solid rate throughout his rehab, and has recently began taking outdoor batting practice as well as throwing from 50 feet.
His progression will be fun to watch as we wait for his return to the mound in 2020, but the real fun will come with him at the plate.
Last season, after it was decided he’d get Tommy John surgery after the season, Ohtani absolutely smashed to end the season. In fact, after the announcement that he’d undergo the operation following the final game of the season, he slashed .320/.395/.653 with 13 home runs in 47 games.
And while some may point at how rehabbing his arm to return to pitching will be a distraction from hitting and hurt his production, that point doesn’t hold much logic. Ohtani was an exceptional hitter last season while pitching, which is a much heavier workload than rehabbing his arm.
While his timing may be off to start the year, that’s normal for any hitter who misses time. Ohtani is always standing in during teammates’ bullpen sessions so that he can keep his timing intact as much as possible.
We saw it at the end of last year but when Ohtani was able to be slotted into the lineup every day rather than stunts of 3-4 days, his production climbed. He got into a rhythm once he was able to hit every day, as all hitters do. Now, we get to see him do that for an entire season once he returns.