Less than one week has passed since Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani shocked the sports world by agreeing to sign with the Los Angeles Angels. Given that the Angels were not seen as one of the favorites, the decision had potentially long-lasting ramifications and, in short, allowed fans of the club to envision a future with Mike Trout, Andrelton Simmons and Ohtani forming the nucleus of a potentially devastating squad for years to come.
However, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports has unearthed information that casts a shadow over the previous optimism, as the report indicates that Ohtani has what is described as a “damaged ulnar collateral ligament” in his throwing arm. Ohtani is seen as the ultra-rare prospect that could have a legitimate impact as a both a hitter and pitcher but, in short, this kind of ailment reportedly caused him to seek a plasma injection in October and could present future issues on the pitching side of the equation.
While details are fuzzy at this point (and the Angels reportedly have not returned calls seeking additional information), what would be clear with this reporting is that Ohtani would be at risk of Tommy John surgery in the future. Because he is seen as a pitcher first and foremost, that would certainly have dampened his market value and, even with the caveat that the Angels paid a relatively low price for his services (outside of a $20 million posting fee to his Japanese club), the shine would potentially wear off to some degree. Finally, it is also conceivable, or even likely, that teams in pursuit of his contract would have been aware of the injury, though that is not 100 percent clear at this stage.
It has to be noted that Ohtani could function, or even excel, with the sprained UCL and this is not a situation in which he would be locked into a lengthy injury absence. However, any hiccup from here could cause a larger issue and it will be exceedingly interesting to see how the Angels, and Ohtani himself, frame this in the coming days.