Inside Shohei Ohtani’s Years in the NPB


Regardless of which MLB team a baseball fan roots for, they probably like Shohei Ohtani. The outfielder-pitcher is one of the most beloved players on the Los Angeles Angels roster, adored by both fans and players. Nicknamed Shotime for his flashy and reliable style of play, he’s one of the MLB’s most influential players.

In fact, even though sportsbooks aren’t listing the LA Angels as likely candidates to make it out of the AL West, Ohtani is favored as an MVP. At the moment, he’s listed behind the Yankees’ Aaron Judge in American League MVP odds for the 2022 season.

Unlike many other players, Ohtani can pitch, outfield, and hit on par with his generation’s greatest players, most of whom only excel in one department. But Ohtani wasn’t always slated for the Angels. In fact, he almost signed with the Dodgers before staying in Japan’s NPB league.

Almost a Dodger

When Ohtani turned pro back in 2013, multiple MLB teams were jockeying to sign him. High on the list was the Dodgers, along with the Red Sox, Rangers, and Yankees. However, Ohtani decided to play in the NPB for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters after being drafted. His early years in the league hinted he would have a prestigious career in baseball.

During his five years with the Nippon-Ham Fighters, Ohtani brought home five consecutive All-Star awards, along with a Pacific League MVP nod. He led the lead in ERA in 2015, as a designated hitter in 2016, and as a pitcher in both 2015 and 2016.

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As mentioned above, this quickly helped differentiate Ohtani from most other pros due to his adaptability on the mound, in the outfield, and stepping up to bat. But how exactly did Ohtani end up on the Angels’ roster when he switched to the MLB in 2018?

A Star for the Angels

In 2017, Ohtani and the Nippon-Ham Fighters reached an agreement with the Angels to sign him. At the time, he was fielding offers from seven different teams. Bound by MLB-NPB negotiating rules, he would be paid a minimal rookie salary and signing bonus, which meant big money was never a prime motivator for Ohtani off the bat.

Instead, he said he chose to sign with the Angels because of their outlook on the sport and what he felt he could accomplish in the MLB. Since joining the Angels’ squad, Ohtani has brought up two All-Star nods, one AL MVP award (with a second possibly pending), and an AL Rookie of the Year award for his inaugural 2018 season.

Misty Tate

"Freelance twitter advocate. Hardcore food nerd. Avid writer. Infuriatingly humble problem solver."

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