Entering Fantasy Baseball drafts in 2018, owners will have a different challenge—where to draft the dual-threat top prospect Shohei Ohtani. The 23-year-old Japanese phenom is set to become the first player in decades to both pitch and hit. Not only is he changing the game but he also comes in with the added hype of being the No.1 prospect in baseball (according to MLB Pipeline).
The first thing to know is that ESPN and Yahoo are handling the Pitcher/ Batter differently. On ESPN, you can use Ohtani as a pitcher on the days he’s on the mound and plug him in as a DH when he steps into the batter’s box. However, on Yahoo he will be two different players—a pitcher and a batter—and can be owned two different owners. Ohtani obviously carries more value in ESPN leagues, but how early do you draft him?
Ohtani has struggled this spring, allowing eight earned runs on nine hits and two walks in just 2.2 innings (27.00 ERA / 4.13 WHIP). He has also struggled with the bat, going 2-for-24 (.083) with nine strikeouts. Regardless, the Angels plan on having Ohtani in their Opening Day roster and hope for the best.
In five years in Japan, Ohtani posted a career 2.52 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 10.3 K/9 in 543.0 career innings. As a batter, he hit .286/.358/.500—showing a good amount of pop.
Those numbers are obviously what led to Ohtani being highly coveted this offseason and are definitely a better indicator of who Ohtani is than his Spring Training numbers. He is seeing and facing pitchers for the first time, so that can explain his struggles at the plate. On the mound he’s shown great control and strikeout ability (10.1 K/9) despite giving up a lot of runs.
Fantasy baseball is all about volume and Ohtani should give you a lot of it, at least early-on. Ohtani is expected to be a part of a six-man rotation and swing the bat a few times per week, but is that worth paying up for? The answer is no. You typically play the same batters every day (besides offdays) so a part-time hitter doesn’t carry a lot of value—unless he is absolutely raking.
As a pitcher he should be drafted in the top-30 at the position. He possesses elite strikeout ability and through the early parts of spring, he has brought it over from Japan with him. His 10.1 K/9 would have ranked just outside the top-10 among qualified starters last season. Even if his ERA takes the expected bump in his move to America, he should still be able to keep it under 4.00. Those kind of rates should keep him in the low-end No.2/high-end No.3 fantasy conversation. When you factor in that he will at least be available to you as a hitter (on ESPN) that should solidify his draft position.
The important thing to remember is not to get lured in by the hype. There’s going to be rough patches like with any young prospect. Just because he can hit and pitch does not mean you should rank him with the Aaron Nola’s or the James Paxton’s of the league.
When you start talking about Yahoo leagues, Ohtani’s value takes a hit. He should still be drafted as a top-30 pitcher and worthy of a top 100 pick, but the hitter is basically useless. Sure he might put up nice numbers, but he will only be in your lineup for about 25 games or roughly 100 at-bats. You can take a last-pick of the draft flier on him, but that is it. Even if he rakes in those 100 at-bats, there are hundreds of other players who will play everyday and rack up more numbers in your utility slot.