Shohei Ohtani isn’t the only two-way MLB player, if Phillies want to unleash him

Shohei Ohtani's abilities on the mound and offensively have ignited the league, and it could start an interesting trend.
Rob Tompson, Phillies manager
Rob Tompson, Phillies manager / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

Shohei Ohtani is the most impactful pound-for-pound MLB player of the last century. No player has been able to be as effective as both a starting pitcher and designated hitter as he has been the last several seasons. Before an untimely UCL injury, Ohtani was thought to be in line for an easy $500 million-plus contract (and still might be, depending on how the offseason negotiations go).

Clearly, there is immense observed value in today's game in players who can play on both sides of the ball. It's an extreme rarity with Ohtani sticking out as the only current example now that the designated hitter slot has been adopted by the National League as of 2022.

But perhaps the success he's had playing both ways will encourage other teams to look at their rosters to see if they have a similar gem. The Philadelphia Phillies could unlock one of their newest additions in a way other teams weren't able to, though such a move would be risky and likely unnecessary.

Michael Lorenzen could be the next two-way pitcher if the Phillies want to get wild

Michael Lorenzen was drafted in 2013 (after deciding to go to college after being drafted initially in 2010) by the Cincinnati Reds with visions of being a two-way player. Scouting reports then pegged him as a stronger pitcher than an outfielder, so it's not completely shocking to have seen him grow into a full-time pitching role.

But at the onset of his career, there were hopes he would be an average or slightly above-average outfielder during his pitching off days. Like Ohtani is now, Lorenzen hoped to be an everyday player.

He played some games in the outfield, appearing in 96 innings in the field from 2015-2021.

The Phillies are not strangers of late to experimenting with players in different positions around the diamond. Bryce Harper, in his rapid return from surgery this season, toyed around at first base despite being a career outfielder. Might the Phillies look to leverage a possible hidden gem in Lorenzen's two-way abilities?


The major problems with trying to turn Michael Lorenzen into a Shohei Ohtani

First and foremost, there is only one Shohei Ohtani. Trying to replicate his historic statistical accomplishments thus far is a battle Philly won't win if that's their goal. But that doesn't mean the Phils can't try to implement a two-way player strategy in their own way.

The big problem with that would be, first and foremost, it's been a while -- two years -- since Lorenzen has done anything other than pitch. Getting back up to speed with big-league batting and outfield work would be tough.

Furthermore, Lorenzen has not played the outfield in the majors since he became a full-time starter, and for good reason. Starting pitchers only pitch every few days because they need those off days to rest the strain pitching puts on their arms. Outfield work requires arm strength as well. There's no way Lorenzen can be expected to be an effective outfielder ready to get putouts on fly balls a day or two removed from his most recent start. It would wreak havoc on his arm.

So, move him to designated hitter, much like the Angels did with Ohtani, right? Well, the problem there is Lorenzen's strength as a two-way player was his ability to play the field. His bat was never elite, especially at the big-league level. He has a career 84 OPS+, which essentially means he's a below-average hitter.

Ultimately, the Phillies will probably look at those above facts and recall there's no sense in messing with what's working. Philadelphia traded for him because of his strong starting pitching, and that's how they'll use him.

Don't expect Lorenzen to see two-way work, but also, keep in mind it's in Philadelphia's back pocket...

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