Ohtani Mania is spreading throughout baseball, and the Red Sox got a firsthand look at it on Tuesday, though it didn’t exactly go according to plan for the Angels. Despite the one bad start, the two-way player is quite possibly the most thrilling baseball player of my lifetime just by sheer novelty, which in a way undersells what he’s doing because the dude is good as hell at baseball. That’s an actual quote from his scouting report (or at least it should be). Oddly enough (or maybe not so oddly) there are a couple other potential two-way players coming up around the league, with Brendan McKay in Tampa’s system and Hunter Greene in Cincinnati’s. Greene is only pitching right now, but they haven’t closed the door on getting him back to hitting at some point. Chances are there isn’t going to be another Ohtani, because we haven’t seen one in 100 years and it would be pretty wild if we got multiple versions of this at the same time. Still, it’s super fun and one of those things you dream of as a little kid until an adult tells you you’re stupid for being unrealistic. You know how adults talk to children. So, with the Ohtani hype in full swing, let’s try to figure out which current Red Sox players could fit pull off this kind of two-way feat. Before you poo-poo this idea and point out that the real answer is no one, I know. We’re justing havin’ a little fun on a Wednesday afternoon. Enjoy yourself for once.
Mitch Moreland doesn’t quite look like the best athlete on the team, which is unfair to him but it is what it is. Still, he has a pitching background and we got a first-hand look at how he looked on the mound last season. He throws from the left side and he was throwing low-90s heat with some cut along with some curveballs in his one-inning appearance with the Red Sox in 2017 that even included a strikeout. That was Moreland’s second career appearance in a major-league game, and he was a reliever for Mississippi State in his college days. He probably couldn’t go full Ohtani as a starter, but maybe he could be a different kind of two-way player who started games as a first baseman and made LOOGY appearances when needed. Probably not though.
Based on how he speaks in interviews and how beat writers talked about him before his interleague appearance in Miami earlier this year, something tells me Brian Johnson would be the most confident of any Red Sox player in his ability to play two ways. The former first round pick was the best two-way player in college earlier this decade when he was at the University of Florida, combining his presence on the mound with legitimate power at the plate. His hitting experience earlier this year wasn’t much to write home about, but he looked like an actual batter when he stepped in the box and that is a lot more than you can say about most pitchers. Moreland is the more fun answer because there’s something weirdly thrilling about position players pitching compared to pitchers hitting, but Johnson would probably have the best shot of pulling this off among Red Sox players. He probably couldn’t do it though.
We are now beyond the two players with a less unrealistic (but still super unrealistic) shot at two-way success and now we are into the players who might have the skillset even if they haven’t tried. I honestly believe that is Betts had been working his whole life towards being a two-way star he could have done it. I believe this mostly because I believe that Mookie Betts is capable of literally anything. Name something. He’s capable. The man is incredible. He has one of the strongest arms in baseball, he’s athletic and has a high baseball IQ. He seems like he could pitch pretty well if he worked at it. Probably not though.
Much of the same arguments applied to Betts can be applied to Sale, who can also do anything he puts his mind to. He also strikes me as someone who would be very, very angry about failing at the plate and simply willing himself to no longer fail. It’s the type of thing I cannot do, because when I fail I just check to make sure no one saw and then never attempt that thing again. I’m not very inspirational. Either way, Sale hit a double one time last year and if he can do that he should be able to be an everyday DH while also being one of the very best pitchers in baseball. Probably not though.
I know he is on the outs among Red Sox fans but he’s still fun as hell and will be the face of versatility for the foreseeable future. Whenever he leaves the roster — whether it’s later this year, in 2019 or in 2050 — all other super utility players will be compared to Holt. As such, he needs to be included in this discussion.
Finally, we arrive at the correct answer. Look, the guy said he was going to go 30/30, and we all laughed. He’s actually doing it. If he called a press conference tomorrow to announce he was going to become a two-way player, I would 100 percent believe in Hanley.