The only surefire, foolproof, can’t-miss prediction for Shohei Ohtani for 2023 is that he’s going to loom larger over Major League Baseball than ever before.
As the only true two-way star in MLB’s history, Ohtani already looms plenty large enough already. He handily won the American League MVP in 2021, and he was so dominant again in 2022 that even 62 home runs wasn’t enough for Aaron Judge to claim unanimous MVP honors.
What could nonetheless make ’23 extra special for Ohtani is that he could be involved in not one, but two ultra-high-profile transactions.
Mark Feinsand of MLB.com is hardly the only one thinking that the Los Angeles Angels might trade their 28-year-old superstar this summer. They’ve endured seven straight losing seasons and he’s ticketed for free agency at year’s end, so the stars are on track to align.
As for what the open market could deem Ohtani to be worth, Jon Heyman of the New York Post, Jeff Passan of ESPN and, most recently, his colleague Alden González have all thrown $500 million out there.
We’re not time-travelers, so we can’t say with 100 percent certainty what will happen with Ohtani this year. But since there isn’t much else to occupy our time during this final stretch toward spring training, we don’t see any harm in venturing some guesses.
Not Saying Shohei Ohtani Can Get Even Better, But…
Let’s start with an easy one: 2023 will be Ohtani’s best season yet.
Maybe this is a bold take, given that he wouldn’t seem to have much room to improve. Across the last two seasons, he was 52 percent better than the average hitter and 55 percent better than the average pitcher. Statistically, he’s like if Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Carlos Rodón were Tuvix’d into a single lifeform.
Surely working against Ohtani is his potential for injury. It’s high even in the best of times, given that he participates in the most batter-pitcher matchups of any player. Yet it’s about to be even higher, as his participation for Team Japan in the 2023 World Baseball Classic will only heighten his exposure to injury.
If Ohtani can stay healthy, however, he has clear routes to better numbers on both sides of the ball.
On the mound, Ohtani is already know for his 100 mph fastball, devastating splitter and equally devastating slider, but not so much for his sinker.