Shohei Otani and why being Babe Ruth isn't all it's cracked up to be | Forum

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lucky Jun 16
The Orioles scored big with their first pick, Georgia Paul Konerko Womens jersey prep lefty D.L. Hall (first round), who ranked eighth on my board. He's an athletic kid with a plus fastball and curveball already, average changeup, and a good delivery. The O's have had trouble developing pitchers, notably because they've changed a lot of kids' mechanics, but if they just let Hall be he should dominate the low minors. The O's also took Canadian shortstop Adam Hall (second round), no relation to D.L., who wasn't on my top 100; he's an average runner Jonathan Drouin Youth Jersey with some bat speed but a wrap and a linear approach that doesn't look as if it'll produce power, and I think he's maybe 50/50 to stay at short. Zac Lowther was taken in competitive balance round B after the second round (2B), which made him the highest-drafted player ever from Xavier University. He's a big, thickset lefty who'll pitch at 89-90 mph as a starter to go with a plus breaking ball, probably in a back-end starter, but he might be more valuable in a relief role. Jacksonville University right-hander Mike Baumann (3) has touched 97 mph with his fastball and sits mid-90s as a starter with an assortment of not-average secondary pitches, although his slider might get there in time. Given his delivery and below-average command, the consensus on Baumann had him as a two-pitch power reliever in pro ball. Right-hander Conlon (4) has a big arm, throws 92-95 mph with some sink, and shows an above-average breaking ball, but he has a violent delivery with a head-whack and he'll need a lot of cleaning up to start. Lamar Sparks (5) is an upside play, a high school outfielder who can run and has a 70 arm with average present power and a swing that works but the usual questions about how advanced the bat is right now. Ninety-seven years ago, the Yankees made a decision that would help draw the line separating the olden days from the modern era: They let the greatest hitter the game had ever seen focus on his hitting. Babe Ruth, a league-average starter in 133 innings for Boston the year before, would appear Adidas Pierre-Luc Dubois Womens Jersey on the mound only once in his first season with New York in 1920. Instead, playing every day in the outfield, he would hit 54 homers, nearly doubling the single-season record and setting an OPS mark that wouldn't be topped until the next century. The modern slugger was born. Simultaneously, the two-way baseball star was dead. There would, it seemed for almost 100 years, never be another one. Suddenly, though, we're living in the golden age of -- well, the golden age of hoping for a golden age of two-way stars. This week, a baseball fan reading her usual allotment of baseball news would have seen three plausible paths to a 21st-century Babe: The Reds used the second overall pick in the amateur draft to take Hunter Greene, a high schooler who throws 100 mph, hits mammoth blasts with a wood bat and dreams of doing both as a professional; the Rays used the fourth overall pick on Brendan McKay, possibly the best college pitcher and best pure hitter in the draft, who will embark on the extremely rare double-development path in the Tampa Bay system; and Shohei Otani breathed in, then out, 23,000 times per day, doing his part to keep our hopes alive merely by existing. Otani, the Japanese Babe Ruth, is already a phenomenon: He throws as hard as Noah Syndergaard and hits baseballs as far as Bryce Harper, and as a starter/designated hitter last year he led Nippon Professional Baseball in both ERA and OPS. He will be pitching in the majors soon, if not next year, then certainly within the next three. He wants to keep hitting, too, and he might have real leverage to make skeptical teams take his request seriously. But there's a paradox that helps explain why a great two-way player is so unlikely: Becoming a great two-way player requires a player to be great at both offense and pitching, but being great at either one makes a team less willing to experiment with you. You become the bird in the hand, which, we all know, is worth two in the bush. But life's gambles are rarely as simple as that. How many in the bush would it take to make you give up on the one in the hand? Is a bird in the hand worth three in the bush? Is it worth six in the bush? What if the one in your hand is not really in your hand, just closer to your hand than the one in the bush? Is a bird in a bush worth two in a tree? Is two-thirds of a bird in the hand worth 1.8 birds in the bush? The proverb doesn't address the uncertain probabilities of baseball, one of humankind's least predictable endeavors. That's what teams -- the Reds, the Rays, the 30 teams that will covet Otani and the one team that ultimately signs him -- need to figure out. In the WAR era, "figuring out" is supposed to be easy; so much can be stated as runs in an equation. In this case, though, there are at least a half-dozen crucial variables, each one of them unknown -- perhaps, unknowable.