Jason Coskrey is a baseball writer who has worked for The Japan Times since 2007. He spoke with theScore on Thursday about Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani, who is expected to sign with MLB soon after concluding his meetings with clubs on Tuesday.
Bryan Mcwilliam: Tell me about Ohtani’s demeanor, both on and off the field?
Jason Coskrey: "He’s kind of the same either way. He doesn’t seem to get overly hyped up or anything. He keeps his emotions in check. He’s very mature for his age. Off the field, he doesn’t seem to get too high or too low. On the field, it’s pretty much the same. You can see his emotions creep out of him a little when something is going not quite right, but not to an extreme. Sometimes he’ll exult when he gets out of a big spot or something like that, but he’s pretty even-keeled for the most part."
Mcwilliam: How is he with his teammates and the fans?
Coskrey: "He’s good with the fans. He doesn’t get as much time with them because there’s so much demand for him. Other players get to interact more with the fans than Ohtani. He has to be watched a little harder because there’s so much interest in him and so many people are after his autograph. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t like it all the time, but he’s pretty good with the media - he actually likes to do media things. He’s a nice kid and it seems like he wants to please as many people as he can. He understands how much people put into it and he seems to genuinely want to give back to people who invest in him. That’s just the kind of guy he is.”
Mcwilliam: Tell me about his ability as an outfielder? Does he offer value as an outfielder or is he better suited as a designated hitter?
Coskrey: "He offers value as an outfielder, but it’s not something he did a lot. After his first two years, he didn’t really play outfield that much. They limited him to the DH. He actually debuted here as an outfielder, he played right field a lot of the time. He played left at least once, maybe more than that. But probably as a DH because he hasn’t played outfield in a couple of years. When he was playing in right field, he was pretty good out there, showed a lot of potential. With some work, he could be a valuable right fielder. I think he’d offer value as a right fielder, but probably more as a DH because it’s less stress on his body especially if he’s going to be trying to go two ways and because he’s a really good hitter."
Mcwilliam: Does Ohtani's swing remind you of someone else?
Coskrey: "I don’t know whose swing he reminds me of ... Ohtani’s got a great swing. A great approach at the plate. His swing is beautiful and the way he gets through the zone took a big leap from 2015 to 2016. As far as a comparison, I can’t think of one right now."
Mcwilliam: Have you noticed a difference in his routine compared to a regular starter on five days’ rest?
Coskrey: "I think he’s different from every other regular starter on five days’ rest because he’s taking batting practice every day. That’s not usually what you see a starter doing. You don’t even really see them near the batting cage all that much. When he’s working on his pitching, he’ll come out a little early and do his pitching and if he’ll have to throw a bullpen he’ll do that, then he’ll be in the cage with everybody else hitting."
Mcwilliam: If you had to compare Ohtani to anyone, who do you think that would be?
Coskrey: "There’s no one that I can think of overall, just because no one is doing what he’s doing. He’s kind of like Kristaps Porzingis: he’s a unicorn. I want to say (Bryce) Harper, but Harper doesn’t hit for the average Ohtani hits for all the time. He’s just kind of a unicorn because there’s nobody who’s doing what he’s trying to do. I know there have been players like (Rick) Ankiel who’ve switched, but nobody has tried to do it at the same time. There’s nobody that brings his skill set. As a hitter, you can probably find some comparisons. As a pitcher, you can probably find some comparisons. But put those two together, and he’s like Clayton Kershaw and Nolan Arenado. He’s a really good hitter and pitcher all in one."
Mcwilliam: What makes Ohtani such a special player?
Coskrey: "He’s special as a pitcher. He can throw 100 (mph) and he’s got that insane forkball, a crazy slider, a great curveball. He could be an insanely good pitcher if that’s what he focused on. He could be special as a pitcher, and at the same time he’s got such an ability at the plate that if he honed his skills at hitting, he could also be a special hitter. I think he’s just a special player overall. I mean, you see a lot of guys who have the talent to be really good as a pitcher, really good as a hitter. You see them do it in college, a lot of them do it in high school, but you haven’t seen a guy in a top league around the world, and he’s done it in the Japanese league which is probably the second-best league outside of America. It’s just a matter of whether he can do it in a league which is comparable to what he’s faced, but much deeper."
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)
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