Image credit: Shohei Ohtani (Greg Shamus/Getty Images)
Shohei Ohtani’s transcendent 2018 season will end with some hardware.
The Angels two-way star was named the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year award Monday evening. Ohtani, 24, was one of three finalists along with Yankees infielders Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. He received 25 of 30 possible first-place votes.
Andujar finished second, while Torres finished third and Joey Wendle fourth.
The award continues a run of postseason accolades for one of the game’s bright young stars — Ohtani was also named Baseball America’s 2018 Rookie of the Year.
“I’m really satisfied, really honored to win the award in the my first year in the states,” Ohtani said via an interpreter in a conference call Monday night.
Ohtani posted 3.9 bWAR this season as both a hitter and starting pitcher despite dealing with injury. He slugged a powerful .285/.361/.564 line at the plate with 22 homers in 367 plate appearances and also made 10 starts on the mound, striking out 63 batters in 51 2/3 innings while posting a 3.31 ERA.
Intrigue followed Ohtani at every turn since last December, when the Japanese prospect armed with a 102-mph fastball and a bat capable of cranking 500-foot homers opted to sign with the Angels. You can see Baseball America’s initial scouting report on Ohtani here, and also read about his recruitment to America through the lens of ex-major leaguers in Japan.
Ohtani opened the season as the AL’s favorite to win the Rookie of the Year and did not disappoint. He sparkled in his first home start and, when healthy, was dominant. He joined Babe Ruth (1919) as the only players in major league history to hit 15 home runs and pitch 50 innings in a season. Not even Ruth had 15 home runs and 50 pitching strikeouts in a season.
“I’m really honored,” Ohtani said when compared to Ruth. “It’s unbelievable I could win this award and how I was able to win it.”
Elbow trouble kept Ohtani off the mound for much of the second half of the season (he pitched just once after June 6th) and required Tommy John surgery after the season. He is expected to return to the mound in 2020, but the Angels hope he can serve as their designated hitter in 2019.
Ohtani said Monday night his rehab is “right on schedule.”
He was also asked whether he thought his season — considering his production despite just 367 PAs and 51 IP — was enough to prove being a two-way player is sustainable.
In that regard, the Angels rookie said he feels he has more to prove.
“I feel like I need to put a full season under my belt to be able to say I succeeded as a dual-threat,” he said.
“Putting numbers aside … I was disappointed I wasn’t able to play a full season. I feel like elite players should be able to play a full year and help out the team. I feel like that’s something I need to work on and that’s going to be one of my goals … to be able to help the team from day one.”
Andujar, 23, quickly became a much-needed mainstay in the Yankees’ lineup, especially as New York dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness at other positions. The third baseman thumped his way to a .297/.328/.527 line, tied for the rookie lead in homers (27) and led all rookies in hits (170), doubles (47) and extra-base hits (76).
Andujar was the Yankees’ No. 5 prospect after the 2017 season and was ranked as high as No. 59 in baseball. He had impressive spring training numbers but wasn’t expected to impact the major league team — at least to begin the 2018 season — but took advantage of playing time after Brandon Drury was sidelined with injury.
Although not a particularly fluid fielder at third base (Andujar made 15 errors), there was no denying the impact of his bat. Andujar won back-to-back Rookie of the Month awards in June and August.
Andujar’s candidacy for our Rookie of the Year award came up in a recent Ask BA.
Torres, 21, posted a 2.9 bWAR and was another formidable rookie bat in New York’s lineup once he made his debut on April 22. Torres hit .271/.340/.480 with 24 homers in 484 plate appearances. The second baseman enjoyed a particularly hot start, homering nine times in his first 29 games.
Both Torres and Andujar were vying to be the second consecutive AL Rookie of the Year in pinstripes. Aaron Judge won the award in 2017.