Published On: Wed, Mar 14th, 2018

A closer look at 2-way phenom Shohei Ohtani's fantasy value

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When Shohei Ohtani signed a professional contract with the Los Angeles Angels in December, he not only became the talk of the town in the real world but a fantasy attraction, too.

Fantasy league platforms and their operators had no immediate answer as to how Ohtani would be designated, which made his situation an intriguing one.

What was his position eligibility going to be? Were owners going to be able to capitalize on both his hitting and pitching abilities with one draft selection?

Different leagues decided to go in different directions.

Yahoo split Ohtani into two players: the starting pitcher and the hitter. CBS Sports, on the other hand, decided he would occupy one combined roster spot as both a starting pitcher and a utility hitter, and owners would have to decide how to use him.

Depending on the league, Ohtani’s value could change fantasy stat lines based on usage, but the attribute which made him such a luxurious treasure and a target of all 30 Major League Baseball teams might not actually give fantasy owners any sort of leg up.

While it may be cool to have such an anomaly on a roster, fantasy owners interested in drafting Ohtani might be best served to take him – or use him – solely as a pitcher and shy away from his hitting side unless they’re in a deep league or have no other choice when locking in game-day rosters (if playing in a league where Ohtani has dual eligibility, of course).

Angels manager Mike Scioscia expects the right-hander to make 23-25 starts this season. Projection system Steamer has Ohtani finishing the season with 24 starts, earning a 10-7 record, 3.56 ERA, and 183 strikeouts in 148 innings.

While 183 strikeouts in 148 innings, or 11.12 K/9, is pretty sweet, Ohtani the pitcher looks more like a sixth- or seventh-round pick (he went in the sixth round, 66th overall in theScore’s mock draft) and not an early-round selection (he’s going as high as 25th overall in some leagues).

Depending on how much merit an owner gives Steamer’s projections, those numbers would put him in Aaron Nola territory – Nola finished 2017 with 12 wins, a 3.54 ERA, and 184 strikeouts (albeit in 168 innings) for the Philadelphia Phillies and was selected just one round after Ohtani in theScore’s mock draft.

Ohtani the hitter, however, is only projected by Steamer to receive 247 plate appearances – the same as Miami Marlins rookie shortstop JT Riddle and one fewer than Cleveland Indians back-up catcher Roberto Perez received last season – and belt 10 homers, while driving in 32 and hitting .261.

For comparison’s sake, those numbers were fairly similar to those of spring battery mate Rene Rivera from 2017 (218 PA, 10 HR, 35 RBI, .252 AVG), whose average ADP is 625th and who is ranked by National Fantasy Baseball Championship as the 54th best catcher in fantasy.

While Ohtani’s fantasy qualities as a pitcher are still worthy of a look, owners should also be cautious, for a few reasons. Remember, this is a player with an injury history (he’s reportedly experienced ligament issues with his throwing elbow, and underwent ankle surgery last year) who is still trying to get acclimated to his new surroundings, has a lot of pressure on his shoulders, and is still just 23 years old. He was also recently lit up by a Mexican League team in spring training.

With all of that being said, Ohtani looks like a generational talent whose allure makes watching baseball a lot of fun, and no matter how he handles himself in fantasy, it’s very likely he becomes the most-watched story of the 2018 campaign in both the real world and the virtual.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

(ADP courtesy: National Fantasy Baseball Championship)

(Steamer projections courtesy: Fangraphs)

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