Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani eyes Babe Ruth as possible two-way player

If you don’t already know who Shohei Ohtani is, then you likely will soon. The 23-year-old Japanese star recently signed with the Los Angeles Angels this past offseason and has been turning heads this year with his unique ability to hit and pitch at a high level.

Unlike most major league baseball players, Ohtani is used as both a starting pitcher and a designated hitter. This is practically unheard of in modern day professional baseball, as specialization has become the norm for most players.

Pitchers, especially those from the American league, do not usually have to worry about hitting due to the presence of the designated hitter. They are taught to focus on pitching, and only pitching. In the National league, pitchers are required to hit, but are usually taken out of the lineup on days they are not starting.

Ohtani, however, is clearly breaking that mold. As of right now, Ohtani pitches every fifth game for the Angels and serves as a DH for most of the games in between. This is not something you typically see, as most teams prefer to keep their starting pitchers off the field whenever possible. Limiting opportunities for injury is a key focal point of many managers, especially to starting pitchers. Ohtani however, is so talented at the plate that it is hard to justify keeping his bat on the bench.

In just 19 at bats this season, Ohtani is hitting .368 at the plate with three home runs and seven runs batted in. You can watch all three of his home runs here. His most recent home run was a towering 449 foot shot to center field.

Before that, the Japanese star homered off pitcher Corey Kluber. Kluber is the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. Not too bad for the 23 year old rookie. Moreover, Ohtani’s smooth lefty swing is truly a thing of beauty, and it looks like he will be sticking around as the team’s DH for quite a while.

Shohei Ohtani launches a home run to center field Photo credit: Sean Haffey. Photo courtesy: Getty Images

In his first start with the Angels, Ohtani threw six complete innings while giving up three earned runs and striking out six. The three runs all came from a three-run homer in the second inning, so it looks like Ohtani settled in nicely after that.

In his second start, Ohtani blew everyone away. After retiring the first 19 batters he faced, Ohtani went on to pitch seven scoreless innings, striking out 12 and only allowing one hit and one walk. He clearly had his best pitches working for him in this one, including his sweeping slider and sharp-dropping splitter. Furthermore, it was a game to remember for Ohtani, who firmly cemented his status as a legitimate two-way player.

Shohei Ohtani delivers a pitch against the Oakland Athletics. Photo credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea. Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Stay tuned this weekend to see how the Japanese star does in his third start of the year. Ohtani faces the Kansas City Royals with first pitch scheduled for 11:15 a.m. Sunday.

Austin Schreiber can be reached at [email protected] or @aschreiber94 on Twitter.