By: Noah Wright
A 2 way player is when a player both pitches and hits on a regular basis and/or plays a position other than pitcher on a regular basis. Last season, we saw a historic showcase of both by Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani. In his Rookie Of The Year seasons, Ohtani batted .285/.361/.564 with 22 home runs, a .279 ISO, and 152 wRC+ in 367 plate appearances. He did this, all while he pitched in 51 and two thirds innings of 3.31 ERA, 3.57 FIP, and 1.161 WHIP baseball. Also, there has been a rise in position players pitching, usually in blowout games, and it sort of gave a tryout to some position players to make a switch to become a 2-way player. With that, there have been a handful of reports of players willing to make the move to the mound, while also being position players, and vice versa. So with that, let’s look at some other players that are part of this new evolution of the ball player, 2-way players.
Matt Davidson (FA):
Matt Davidson was once a well regarded prospect, ranking within the top 100 a handful of times. He was mainly known for his power bat throughout the minors. However that was back in 2013-2014. After a trade from the Diamondbacks to the White Sox, Davidson spent 3 more years in the minors, with his numbers going down every season. Eventually, he got another shot to prove himself in the bigs, 4 years since his big league debut in 2013 with the D-Backs. In Davidson’s rookie year, the corner infielder/DH batted .220/.260/.452 in 443 plate appearances, but he still showed good power with 26 home runs, and .232 ISO. Last season, his power did see a decrease, but his OBP did rise to .319. Overall, he still hit 20 long balls. However, Davidson was basically the White Sox go-to guy when it was a blowout game, and they didn’t feel like wasting a bullpen arm. Though he did pitch only 3 innings, Davidson did strikeout 2 batters, one being 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, while only giving up 1 hit and 1 walk. His fastball can touch the 90’s, while he has a decent drop on his curveball. The slugger has stated that he is willing to take on a 2-way player role, and the Rays and Orioles have been looking into the former White Sox to not only provide the team with some decent power, but also to provide some innings out of the pen.
Michael Lorenzen (CIN):
Unlike Davidson, Lorenzen would be making the switch from a pitcher to a position player. The Cincinnati Reds right hander turned in solid results in 2018, pitching to a 3.11 ERA, 4.16 FIP, and 1.383 WHIP in 81 innings. Lorenzen can also work out of the bullpen, or out of the rotation as a starter. Despite Lorenzen mainly worked as a relief pitcher, he got a fair amount of plate appearances in during the season, likely from the times he pinch hit. 34 PA’s, Michael blasted 4 home runs, had a .333 OPB, a .290 average, and impressive .710 slugging %. His impressive showing at the plate last season has had the Reds thinking about moving Lorenzen to the outfield. Afterall, the righty was a 2-way player in college. Plus, he has a strong arm. His fastball can reach upwards of 97-98 MPH, so he might already have a decent outfield arm.
Brendan McKay (TBR):
Brendan McKay is likely going to be the first prospect who was drafted, and brought up through the farm system as a 2-way player. At just 23-years old, McKay is a 1B who has a very good fastball. Last season, between Rookie Ball, Mid-A, and High-A, McKay pitched for a 2.41 ERA, 2.51 FIP, and .881 WHIP. All while only walking batters at a 1.8 per 9 rate, and striking them out at a 11.8 per 9 rate. Though he may not be as good of a batter than he is a pitcher, having just a .727 OPS in 242 PA’s last season, he still has a 60 hit tool, and 50 power tool. All while being a decent fielder with his fielding given a 55 rating.
This is the next evolution in baseball. Soon, I do feel that we will see each team have at least 1, two way player. McKay was drafted as a 2-way prospect, and could thrive at the role. As well as Lorenzen and Davidson. The Reds during 2017 drafted Hunter Green, who was also a two way player, but decided to have him focus on his pitch and pitching only. However in the near future, many teams will probably be looking for college and high school ball players who can both hit, and pitch.