Never Fear, the Cuban Shohei Ohtani is Here; Oscar Colas Seeks MLB Contract
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY SportsIn 2017, an unknown Japanese player made his journey across the Pacific in search of the elusive MLB contract. Many hailed him as the “Modern Day Babe Ruth”. Upon his arrival, Shohei Ohtani was immediately pulled into a heated bidding war among numerous teams, including the Minnesota Twins for a fleeting moment.
In his rookie year, Ohtani was the first player since Ruth to hit 15 home runs and pitch 50 innings in the same season. Ohtani was simultaneously the most reliable pitcher for the Angels while filling the role of the second-best hitter in the lineup on days he didn't pitch. During his rookie season, Ohtani held a 3.31 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP in 10 appearances for the Angels. Although Tommy John surgery kept him off the mound in 2019, Ohtani repeated his offensive dominance of his first season, hitting a .286/.343/.848 and a 2.5 WAR. His two-year career WAR has already exceeded the likes of many seasoned players including former Twins C.J. Cron, Martin Perez, and Sam Dyson.
A rare second chance for a team to garner a player with the same two-way dominance has emerged in the form of Oscar Colas, a 21-year-old prospect who has recently elected to defect from his home country of Cuba. Each team that missed out on the first coming of Ohtani will be even more eager to sign Colas, who according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, intends to play in the United States as soon as possible.
Colas has been playing in Japan for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks since 2017. During his tenure there, Colas has proven to be a reliable hitter, outfielder, AND infielder. In 2019, the lefty slashed.300/.353/.511 with 12 homers in 73 games at both first base and right field. Although there is room for improvement, Colas has respectable defensive metrics. At first base and right field, Colas holds a fielding percentage of 98.2% and 94.1%, respectively with only three errors committed in two seasons.
On top of this, Colas has a 95 mph fastball in his arsenal. At 6’1" and 210 pounds, the 21-year-old already has the build and flexibility of Marwin Gonzalez, the power of Miguel Sano, and the speed of Max Kepler. Much like Eddie Rosario, Colas also hit a home run in his first at-bat with the Hawks.
It was rumored last winter that Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, and Jose Berrios all declined extension offers made by the Twins. While Alex Kiriloff and Trevor Larnach are expected to fill outfield duties sometime this next decade, Colas would allow the flexibility for the Twins to utilize both top prospects and/or Rosario and Buxton for potential trade targets with other teams or as a utility asset, like Gonzalez. If Colas continues to elevate his pitching, he could become a powerful arm in the rotation as a gear to La Makina or as his replacement. Even if Colas can’t continue as a full two-way player, he could be a suitable replacement as a DH after Nelson Cruz’s retirement or impending free agency. Essentially, the possibilities of Colas with the Twins are endless. The reasons to add Colas far outweigh any potential downsides that he could bring.
The furious pursuit of Ohtani indicates that there won’t be a single team in the MLB who won’t be interested in Colas. Thankfully, Colas will likely not be signed until July when each team’s international pool money resets. Until then, the Twins should start thinking about inviting Colas to stop in Minneapolis on his grand tour of the United States.
Should Colas choose to sign with the Twins, it's safe to say that Number 144 (a nice, mathematical square) will still be unclaimed.
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