One of the most interesting developments in Major League Baseball last season was the debut of Shohei Ohtani, a Japanese two-way star who signed with the Los Angeles Angels. Ohtani brought the heat and the power, becoming the first MLB player since baseball legend Babe Ruth to pitch 50 innings and hit 15 home runs in a single season in his Rookie of the Year campaign. While Ohtani will unfortunately be sidelined from pitching this season due to Tommy John surgery, there may be some other players ready to continue the experiment he started in 2019.
DH Matt Davidson, formerly of the Chicago White Sox, worked three innings of scoreless relief in baseball “garbage time” for the Southsiders last year and boasts a 92 mph fastball. In fact, Davidson was a pitcher until his junior year of high school, when he became a full-time position player. The White Sox opted not to tender him a contract for the 2019 season after giving him permission to add pitching to his offseason training regimen. However, he has signed a minor-league deal with the Texas Rangers. I don’t think the Rangers would really have much to lose by using him as a pitcher, since they will likely not be competitive again this year.
INF J.D. Davis of the Mets is another player who could take on a two-way role this season. Davis pitched three seasons of college baseball for Cal State Fullerton, recording an ERA of 2.98, and has made three appearances in relief for the Houston Astros. However, the Mets have not committed to using him as a pitcher and are primarily looking for him to produce as a power hitter, as he hit .342 with a .988 OPS in 85 games at AAA last season.
While neither player is anywhere as exciting as Shohei Ohtani, I believe their potential use as two-way players will be a trend to watch over the coming season, especially since last year saw a record 48 position players on the mound, and load management of relief pitchers is always a major concern for managers.
I grew up a Cubs fan in Northwest Illinois and became an avid follower of the team during the Sosa-McGwire home run chase. Now I am the #1 Cubs fan in Toronto, Canada. You can find me on Twitter @Troll_Hamels (personal) and @farnorthsider (blog).