The Los Angeles Angels’ use of the two-way player could kickstart a new strategy across baseball. Finding a dual threat, the player who can both pitch and hit, may become a priority for teams trying to maximize value and versatility.
Shohei Ohtani, despite undergoing Tommy John Surgery after the end of the 2018 season, may have altered the way the Angels view two-way players moving forward. While Ohtani will put the two-way thing on hold this year as a bat-only player, there are other players within the Angels organization that will try to both pitch and hit.
Prospect Jared Walsh, who hit 29 home runs across three levels in 2018, may be the next Angels player of note to both pitch and hit. Walsh also tossed 5 2/3 innings last season and the Angels saw enough to try to diversify his skillset. Through a few weeks of Spring Training, Walsh has already made two appearances on the mound, showing the makings of a useful pitcher.
Jared Walsh delivering from a low three-quarter arm slot, primarily used fastball that he blew through twice on Adam Moore (note: FB was 88-92 last year in minors), some feel for curveball, feel for strikes - perfect inning on groundout and two flyouts on 13 pitches #Angels— Taylor Blake Ward (@TaylorBlakeWard) February 28, 2019
Walsh is not the only member at Angels camp who is trying to pull off the same stunt. Kaleb Cowart, after spending some time in both Tigers and Mariners camp, made his way back to the Angels last week and will give pitching a go again. After pitching in a “B” game on Saturday and allegedly sitting in the low-90’s, Cowart started against the White Sox on Monday and did this:
Spring Training or not, it’s pretty cool to see someone pitch, return two days later as a hitter and smash a go ahead grand slam. Cowart’s history as a hitter (career .177/.241/.293 line) is rather bad but his above-average defense at numerous infield positions adds intrigue to his possible ability to pitch.
Along with Cowart and Walsh, there are two other Angels prospects trying to pull this off. 27-year-old Bo Way is listed as both an outfielder and pitcher in camp but has yet to make an appearance on the mound. William English, the club’s 2018 fifth round pick, will try to both hit and pitch this season after appearing strictly as a hitter last year. MLB Pipeline listed English as the organization’s 25th best prospect and his development will be fascinating to track.
While the Angels appear to be at the forefront of making the two-way player relevant, they aren’t the only club who seems interested in this strategy. A record 48 position players pitched in 2018, a number that could go up this season if more and more teams find value in this strategy. On top of this, Tampa Bay Rays prospect Brendan McKay is a legitimately great prospect who shows above-average tools both on the mound and at the plate.
With pitcher injuries on the rise, finding position players who can possibly pitch in when called upon could become a bonafide option. With a 26 man roster possibly coming to baseball in the future, it’s possible teams view two-way players as that perfect option for the 26th spot.
This could all just be a small blip on the radar and teams find that it’s impossible to find two-way players and utilize them to their full potential. Maybe a handful of players take on this role in the foreseeable future. Who knows? Either way, it will be a fascinating process to watch unfold.