Two-time MLB All-Star pitcher C.J. Wilson of Fresno knows a bit about Anaheim Angels pitcher/slugger Shohei Ohtani.
Like the rest of the baseball community, the car dealership owner is speculating about the future of the once-in-a-lifetime hitting and pitching phenom. But as a former pitcher and Anaheim Angel himself, Wilson has some insight into the kind of organization that could best offer a home to the star.
The Japanese player is a free agent, but season-ending elbow surgery in September means the two-way player will only bat next year. Even with that news, baseball organizations are salivating at the chance to sign him.
ESPN Baseball Insider Jeff Passan prognosticated that the last four teams in the running are the Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants, and Chicago Cubs. Passan also predicted any contract for Ohtani could be north of $500 million.
The analysis by Wilson begins with a question. Who can utilize Ohtani without needing him to overexert himself?
“He’s going to hit anywhere he goes,” Wilson said. “That’s not a problem. He can hit the ball out of any stadium. But is there somebody that’s able to put their hands on the shoulder and say, ‘Listen, you don’t have to throw a hundred miles an hour every game?'”
‘Disservice’ to Abuse Ohtani’s Talent
Baseball fans want to see Ohtani play. It’s not often fans get to see a player like Ohtani who can knock balls out of the park and then go on the mound and strike out players, Wilson said.
Former San-Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner was no slouch at the plate, nor was 20-year pitching veteran Zack Greinke. Famously, Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson could hit them out of the park. But short of Babe Ruth, most pitchers do little more than hold their own.
With the third-most home runs in Major League Baseball this year and a 3.14 earned-run-average, a player like Ohtani doesn’t even come around once in a generation.
That’s why Wilson says Ohtani needs a team that can provide relief and doesn’t need him to destroy his arm every time he takes the mound.
“There is a direct correlation between fast-ball velocity and effort level,” Wilson said. “And there’s a direct correlation between effort level and injury potential, regardless of your mechanics.”
Considering Ohtani’s talent, it’s tempting for managers to exhaust him, Wilson said. But good management demands a pitching staff deep enough not to abuse the talent.
“You have to have a pitching coach and an organizational approach that’s strong enough that you’re not abusing him like a sort of weird, obscure show pony at a carnival,” Wilson said.
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Wilson Familiar with Injuries
Wilson knows a bit about injuries coming at the cost of a legacy. Having gone through five surgeries himself, Wilson said he’s a big believer in “if something’s hurt, get it fixed, and just come back better.”
He’s excited to see Ohtani taking time off from pitching to heal.
“I’m very excited when they acknowledge their injury and they get fixed because there are really good doctors that can do that,” Wilson said.
Pitchers such as Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were able to last as long as they did because they adapted their pitching, Wilson. They compensated for their drop in velocity with more movement on the mound.
Greinke and former teammate Los Angeles Dodger Clayton Kershaw both added pitches to their portfolios to keep themselves relevant.
Medical mismanagement has been common for the Angels over the past 10 years.
“He’s one of the best athletes to ever play the game of baseball, and it’s a tremendous disservice to fans to see him on the sidelines,” Wilson said.
And, given the Angels notable absence from any playoff games since Ohtani has been with the organization, insiders doubt he would resign in Anaheim.
“It’s a shame that he wasn’t able to finish the season healthy,” Wilson said. “But somebody is going to be writing a very big check for a very long time to provide entertainment for fans. And I’m 100% happy for him and his fans as a result.”