The Angels Have a BIG Decision to make on Shohei Ohtani's Elbow Issues...
He came into Major League Baseball from Japan full of hype, potential and quite honestly started the 2018 season living up to it.
Los Angeles Angels P/OF Shohei Ohtani started the season off with a bang, hitting home runs and at least early in the season---he appeared to be the best pitcher on the Angels staff.
Last week, the multi-talented 23-year old sprained his elbow. Specifically, his Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL). The injury for many is a pre-cursor to "Tommy John Surgery" which is essentially a rebuild/replace procedure in the elbow joint.
And while its not necessarily career ending, for someone who does double duty as a pitcher and an outfielder, it could be a problem. A big problem.
Reports about the severity of the injury have varied with some saying "Minor Sprain" and ESPN reporting Sunday night it was a "Grade 2" injury which likely would need surgery to repair.
The team immediately sought out a "Platlet-Rich Plasma" and "Stem Cell" treatment for their prized property and it may yet be too early to determine if it worked.
But it is not a good sign.....
Tommy John surgery likely will cost the flame throwing righty his 2018 and most of the 2019 season. Which is not good. Like I said, most pitchers can recover from it but the process is slow---very, very slow. Some guys for example--Johnny Venters of Tampa Bay have had more than one TJ surgery. Venters has had 3 and still is an effective pitcher.
But the injury is a game changer and may be a shining example of why at the Major League Level it is extraordinarily hard to be pitcher AND a position player during the course of a season.
There's nothing in his background in the Nippon Professional League which screamed out "Over-use" but in an era where pitchers are often on pitch counts, how much extra wear and tear does the outfield put on even the strongest of arms?
In 6 seasons, he never threw more than 160 innings, manageable by most accounts but throwing 100+ mph has to take some toll.
For all the hype, all the ability there may come a time in the very, very near future where the Angels will be forced to make a decision. Is Ohtani a pitcher or is he an outfielder? Where would they get the best value from his skills?
As a hitter, the kid is a left-handed batter. His swing does not put a lot of stress on his pitching elbow. Could he stay and play as a DH in 2018. Maybe?
If he still has the lingering elbow issue, who does hit help to keep trotting him out there knowing there's zero chance he can pitch...or play in the outfield?
There are a multitude of decisions needing to be made here. Ohtani appears to be a generational talent and at the age of 23, one with a long, long career potentially still in front of him.
More often than not, MLB Pitchers can and do recover from TJ surgery, often recapturing their velocity and skills. But we're talking a good year and a half before that happens.
In the meantime, the Angels have to figure out the best way to handle this. Long-term or immediate payoff, there are several directions they can go.
For now, it looks like they may have some time to make the decision as their "Prized Prospect" appears to be staring up to a year on the sidelines....