Shohei Ohtani bears myriad gifts for the team that he chooses -- through his offensive production, his pitching (whenever he returns), the boost in attendance and television ratings, heightened interest from sponsors. On top of all of that, he seems to inject tangible impact on the hitters who bat around him in the lineup.
Mike Trout was already a slam-dunk Hall of Famer and in the conversation as one of the greatest players of all time. But in recent seasons, as ESPN stats guru Paul Hembekides notes, Trout seems to have benefited from having Ohtani batting behind him in the lineup. In his past 235 games when Ohtani was behind him in the lineup, Trout generated a slash line of .291/.394/.644, with 85 homers -- a rate that translates into a 58-homer pace over 162 games.
When Ohtani has hit behind him, forcing opposing pitchers and catchers to be more aggressive with Trout, he saw a higher percentage of pitches in the strike zone, a lower percentage of noncompetitive pitches and a lower percentage of his at-bats reached a three-ball count. When Ohtani batted behind him, Trout swung at a higher percentage of pitches, likely because he had better pitches to hit.
This must all be nice to dream about if you are Mookie Betts, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Freddie Freeman or any of the other hitters who would get to share a lineup with Ohtani in 2024 and beyond, whenever he picks a team.
It might be an even better exercise if you are Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, Toronto Blue Jays manager John Schneider or any of the others working for a team that's been in conversation with Ohtani; putting together an offensive lineup with Ohtani near the top would be a pure delight.
Let's play out some of those dreams, and project a top of the order for the teams who've considered Ohtani.