A few days ago, Travis Sawchik ask me to help find some comps for the Shohei Ohtani using a 2016 Davenport translation. The list of potential hitters with similar 2018 Steamer projections was impressive (Charlie Blackmon, George Springer, Mookie Betts, Carlos Correa, Yasiel Puig, and Aaron Judge). Additionally, I found pitchers who had similar 2018 projections to his 2016 translation but the list wasn’t as impressive (Jimmy Nelson, James Paxton, Jon Gray, Luis Castillo, Luke Weaver). Thanks to Dan “The Man” Szymborski, a 2018 projection now exists and results will be a little disappointing.
First, from what I heard from most fantasy websites, Ohtani’s will be two separate draftable players. Ohtani the pitcher and Ohtani the hitter. No site, that I know of, has yet to combine the two. If they did, they will likely have to count all the hitting stats accumulated by all pitchers. I hope this doesn’t ever happen.
I’ll start with the pitching projection since pitching is his reported strength. The first part of his projection is an attempt at estimating playing time. Pitchers in Japan only throw once a week, so he may have problems holding up over a full major league season I went back and looked at how many innings Japanese starters threw in their first major league seasons.
The 23-years-old has a decent chance of reaching at least 150 innings with several of the other top imports reaching at least 175 innings. With youth and talent (won’t get demoted) on his side, I have no problems going with a 175-inning projection.
As for his talent level, here is Dan’s projection.
First, Dan is projecting a few fewer innings which in line with the historic values projected above. To find some comps, queried starters with similar 2018 projections to his K/9 and BB/9. Using just +/- 0.4 for both, I just got Dinelson Lamet and Alex Reyes as comps. If I expanded out the criteria to +/- 0.6 on both, Tyler Glasnow and Luiz Gohara got added.
The current hype isn’t putting Ohtani close to the above pitchers. The biggest issue with finding comps is Ohtani’s projected high walk rate. The one comp which may provide an anchoring point is Gohara. Using a basic a 15-team league setting on our auction calculator, Gohara gets ranked as the 34th starter throwing 157 innings. That’s a fairly close comparison.
It only takes one owner per draft to believe in him and push him to be a top-12 pitcher. I’m not going to be that guy. I’ll probably have him around the 25th overall pitcher which is probably going to be too low to own him.
Now for the hitting side. Don’t expect him to be a full-time hitter next season. Teams are going to sign him to start but in deeper leagues, some owners may take a chance on him hitting. As for the plate appearances, I don’t see him getting over 200. Without going into the details, go and read both of Travis’s recent articles on the Ohtani hitting. I think 200 plate appearances is likely on the high side.
In a limited number of plate appearances, here is how Dan expects him to perform.
Just looking at the triple slash line, here are the hitters with similar projections (+/- .010 with each state) with too early ADP added in.
Good but not great hitters who are projected for a full season of plate appearances. Ohtani is probably looking at only a third of their total. He’s just not going to put of the counting stats to be relevant.
I expect more information to become available once the league decides how to handle his posting, he signs, and how his new team decided to utilize him. I expect more projections to eventually become available to clear up potential uncertainty. Until then, I will view him as about the 25th overall starting pitcher and will adjust my estimate up or down as more information becomes available.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.