The San Francisco Giants have emerged as one of the front-runners to land Japanese free agent superstar Shohei Otani. The Giants are coming off a 2017 full of injuries and inconsistency, and Otani could be exactly what the doctor ordered to revive this team. The Giants are looking to add another pitcher to their under-performing rotation, and another bat to their aging lineup, and Otani would fulfill both needs.
“Wait,” you might ask. “How can Otani fill both a hole in the rotation and a hole in the batting order?” Well, for those who aren’t versed in Japanese baseball, Shohei Otani possesses both elite pitching and hitting skill. Furthermore, he has shown the ability to play the outfield positions at a professional level. This has garnered comparisons to the one and only Babe Ruth, who started his career as an elite pitcher for the Boston Red Sox before becoming on outfielder and the all-time home run king with the New York Yankees. One of the main demands that Otani has made in his free agency is to be given the ability to both pitch and play the outfield. The Giants have the flexibility to do this on certain days. It was revealed a few weeks prior that outfielder Hunter Pence was to see a more limited role with the Giants in 2018. If the Giants platooned Pence and Otani, Otani would have the opportunity to play outfield, and the Giants would not have to look for another outfielder to replace Pence.
Furthermore, Otani would benefit from having another great hitting pitcher as a teammate on the Giants. Madison Bumgarner was injured for most of the 2017 season, but still managed to slug three home runs in only 34 at bats. This means he hit a home run in 8% of his at bats last season. This percentage is close to that of NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, who hit a home run in 10% of his at bats last season. Even in Otani’s best hitting season, he only averaged a home run in 6% of his at bats. If Otani signed with the Giants, expect both pitchers’ home run totals to increase, as the two would train with each other and compete to improve in the batting cage.
Enough about Otani’s hitting; it’s time to move on to his pitching, and how he would fit in with the Giants. Otani has posted a career 2.52 ERA in Japan, including a 2.12 ERA in the 2016 season. Comparing this to the current Giants starting rotation sees Otani as the team’s number two or three starter, depending on whether Johnny Cueto is on or off. Realistically, Otani isn’t the clear ace that other teams expect him to be. But the Giants don’t need him to be the ace. Bumgarner is the ace of the staff. Otani, as the second starter in the Giants rotation, would relieve some of the pressure from Bumgarner, allowing Bumgarner to return to form during the prime of his career.
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