After days of speculation and tracking private jets, the biggest free agent in baseball history has made his choice. In an Instagram post on Saturday afternoon, Shohei Ohtani announced that he’d be signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, with a historic deal reported at $700 million over 10 years. It was an emotional roller coaster that seemed like it might not come to pass as recently as 12-18 hours ago, but in the end L.A. landed the plane — and vaulted themselves into MLB’s catbird seat entering the 2024 season.
We’ve gone over the real-world ramifications of this deal from every angle, from where the Dodgers go from here to how the Blue Jays might bounce back from a brutal turn of events to what this means for Los Angeles’ World Series odds in 2024. But what about the fantasy baseball side of things? What does this do for Ohtani’s fantasy value, both next season and beyond? What sort of numbers can we expect him to put up now that he’ll call Dodger Stadium home? And how might it change projections for Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and other members of L.A.’s loaded lineup? Let’s break it all down.
Fantasy outlook after Shohei Ohtani signs with Dodgers
Before we dig deeper into Ohtani’s fantasy value, let’s establish what a reasonable 2024 season might look like by the numbers. We still don’t know exactly what kind of elbow surgery he underwent late last season, but we do know that it’s expected to keep him off the mound until 2025 — simplifying this analysis somewhat, at least for those of you in redraft leagues.
So what can we expect from Ohtani the DH-only? Despite injuries hitting just about every other Angels regular, his numbers at the plate last year were downright goofy: a .304/.412/.654 slash line with an AL-leading 44 homers, 95 RBI and 102 runs scored in just 135 games. And again, that was with Mike Trout battling injuries amid a down year, and scarcely anything else in the way of 1) protection and 2) counting stats opportunities. Now he’ll be hitting behind Freddie Freeman or Mookie Betts and in front of Will Smith and Max Muncy. Safe to say that’s an upgrade.
Of course, it’s not as simple as goosing his numbers across the board and calling it a day. He did just have elbow surgery, after all, and while he’s defied conventional wisdom plenty of times already in his career, you can ask Bryce Harper how that sort of operation can take a while to come back from. Harper eventually got his feet under him and caught fire down the stretch; will Ohtani do the same? Signs point to yes, especially if he spends the year unburdened from all the maintenance his two-way stardom has reportedly taken in the past. While it feels irresponsible to go ahead an project Ohtani for a full season’s worth of at-bats, the median outcome for him is still outrageous — we’ve simply never seen him do anything but rake, and it seems unlikely that he’ll stop being aggressive on the bases either. Combine that with a far friendlier run-scoring environment than he had with the Angels, and you have another elite fantasy season with some upside to spare.
2024 projection: 107/40/101/.281/18 in 503 ABs
Where should you draft him?
Given his lack of positional flexibility and the ever-present health concerns, it’s hard to get too aggressive when ranking Ohtani ahead of 2024 drafts. He simply doesn’t have the 40/40 upside of that other options in the first half of the first round have, from Ronald Acuña Jr. to Julio Rodriguez to Bobby Witt Jr. to Corbin Carroll to Kyle Tucker to Fernando Tatis Jr., with new teammate Mookie Betts just a hair behind. I’d put Ohtani in the next tier, full of stars who have either a category they aren’t likely to contribute much in, injury question marks or a mix of both — guys like Aaron Judge, Trea Turner, Juan Soto, Harper, Yordan Alvarez and Freddie Freeman. Any one of the names above would be a perfectly justifiable choice toward the end of the first round of your fantasy drafts, with your specific preference largely coming down to roster build; do you want Turner’s steals to help you avoid having to chase speed later, or Judge’s mammoth upside, or Freeman, Harper and Soto’s floor? Ohtani’s UTIL-only eligibility puts him probably toward the back-end of that tier, but then again, he also offers a unique power/speed combination that could push him towards eighth or ninth overall.
Impact on dynasty outlook
What does this mean for Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, others?
Both Betts and Freeman are in line to score an absolute boatload of runs hitting in front of Ohtani, but that’s been true for years now — both of them were elite, top-15 fantasy bats in 2024 even before this news, and Ohtani’s signing likely only moves the needle so much. Where our attention should turn instead is the guy currently slated to hit behind Ohtani: catcher Will Smith.
Smith is coming off a relatively disappointing year, in which he backslid in power (19 homers vs. 24 in 2022, .438 SLG compared to .465) en route to the lowest OPS of his career. Now, though, it’s hard to imagine a catcher in a better situation leaguewide. Ohtani is yet another elite bat who figures to be regularly on base in front of Smith, offering both RBI opportunities and a likely steady diet of fastballs as pitchers from the stretch have to adjust their strategies. Smith has long had a swing perfectly geared for the launch-angle revolution, and if he can get and stay healthy, adding Ohtani in front of him puts him in line for a huge season. Of course, even a huge season by catcher standards probably isn’t worth taking within the first, say, 75-100 picks overall — to wit: last year’s top catcher, William Contreras, ranked 87th overall, right around Isaac Paredes — but Smith is No. 1 with a bullet in his positional rankings.