Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani is coming off of what many consider to be the greatest individual season in baseball history. It was also his first uninterrupted season as a Major League player.
Minor injuries like blisters and errant foul balls limited him to 130.1 innings — less than a typical frontline starter — but the result was still incredible almost every time he took the mound. As a hitter, he developed patience and raw power, crushing 46 homes runs and drawing the league’s fifth-most walks.
So when his historic 2021 season came to an end, many wondered if this was the best Ohtani would ever be. From the moment last season ended, Ohtani maintained confidence that he could repeat that performance, despite prior sustainability issues in his first three seasons.
Now that 2022 Spring Training is getting underway, he’s revised his past statements, now saying that he could get even better after a strong offseason workout program, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“Skills-wise, there is room for improvement,” Ohtani said. “Physically, I feel a lot stronger than last year. So I think we’re off to a good start.”
“I feel like I can’t be doing the same thing as last year, to have the same stats,” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “I need to get better and keep improving.”
Not only is Ohtani confident in his own ability to take an unprecedented step forward in his production, Angels catcher Max Stassi also is seeing improvement in the early days of the spring.
“He looks unbelievable,” Stassi said. “I can’t put any limits on him. He’s hungry as ever. He wants to pitch deeper into games. He wants to pitch more. And I think it’s gonna be another unbelievable year. I don’t doubt him one bit. His preparation has been phenomenal. It’s going to be exciting.”
Ohtani started 23 games in 2021 and averaged 5.2 innings per start. The Angels plan to deploy a six-man rotation again in 2022, meaning they’d be happy with those numbers again. But Ohtani — being the phenom that he is — firmly believes he’s capable of more.
It might be difficult to see him reaching 32 starts or 193 innings like AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, but with Ohtani, the sky is absolutely the limit.
Mike Trout staying in center field
Prior to a conversation with Mike Trout, Angels manager Joe Maddon hinted that a move to a corner outfield could be a topic of discussion for the superstar. However, shortly after that announcement — and an apparent conversation with Trout — those comments were quickly walked back.
Officially, Trout is the Angels’ starting center fielder in 2022, signaling a move to the corner for defensive-minded rookie Brandon Marsh.