By: Noah Wright
CreditPhotos by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images, left, and Masterpress, via Getty Images
Over the off-season, The LA Angels acquired one of the most hyped players ever to come over seas, Shohei Ohtani. The Japanese born player has been one of the most unique players to play baseball over the past few decades. In his tenure (2013-2017) in The Japan League, Ohtani didn’t just pitch, but he also played outfield, and DH’ed for The Nippon Ham Fighters. If Ohtani can break out, both as a pitching, and offensive force like he was in Japan, this could bring in a new view for a player’s position flexibility.
First, let’s look at some modern 2-way players. The last two-way player that The MLB has seen was Brooks Kieschnick, a lefty who came up as an outfielder, but eventually made a move to the mound, while also playing some corner outfield. While he did not succeed to great proportions, Kieschnick still finished his career with .247/.315/.444 line (including a season where he batted .300 in 70 at bats), and 10 homers in 336 career plate appearances, and pitched, average (4.59 ERA, 1 HR/9 rate, but a 4.13 FIP). Since his last game in 2004, there has not been a full 2-way player like Kieschnick. In 2017, former San Diego Padres (now a Brewer) player, Christian Bethancourt tried to make the switch from utility catcher to 2-way player, but it did not work as well as it did for Kieschnick.
Currently, The Tampa Bay Rays have a first base/LHP pitcher in their farm system, Brendan McKay. The 22 year old McKay was drafted by The Rays in the first round (4th overall pick) of The 2017 MLB Draft. McKay is currently rated as the #25 best prospect in baseball. McKay has a plus fastball, and control, while also having 30 home run, high 200’s contact potential as well. The Reds also had drafted a player, Hunter Greene, who had two way potential, but gave up hitting to focus more on his pitching.
Now let’s look how a decent year from Ohtani could change the way coaches, and players will look at positional versatility. If Ohtani can show he can handle both hitting, and pitching, this could pave the path for more 2-way players. Teams may look more at 2-way college, and high school prospects, like McKay, to draft. While these highschool and college players may add pitching as a tool to raise their draft potential. With more 2-way players, we could also view it as less rare, and as much of a novelty.
2-way Japanese superstar, Shohei Ohtani, has proven he can handle both the bat and pitching in Japan, but a breakout in The MLB could lead to a wave of more 2-way players. This could also lead to a new way we look at 2-way players, and how college and high school players who enter the draft may widen their flexibility.