Is baseball ready for two-way players? – San Francisco Chronicle

Is baseball ready for two-way players?

May 23, 2017
Updated: May 23, 2017 9:22pm


The Dodgers acquired outfielder Brett Eibner in a January trade with the A’s and now are trying him out as a possible relief pitcher.

Because Eibner throws hard, pitched in college and is developing some sort of repertoire, the Dodgers are considering using him on the mound in a pinch, not just as a backup outfielder.

Starting pitchers are working fewer innings these days. More relievers are being used. Benches can be thin as a result. So the Dodgers are willing to experiment with Eibner to get maximum versatility and value from their 25-man roster.

While they’ve been called everything from novel to nutty, we wonder if this two-way business could become acceptable.


Three players known for both hitting and pitching are hoping to reach the big leagues in the near future: Shohei Ohtani of Japan’s Nippon Ham Fighters, Brendan McKay of Louisville and Hunter Greene of Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks (Los Angeles County).

Greene, 17, can throw 100 mph, which is why some teams like his future on the mound more than in the batter’s box, but he’s also a dandy shortstop prospect and has tremendous pop for a high school kid. “Two-Way” McKay, 21, a left-handed pitcher and first baseman, is so good overall that scouts are mixed on whether he’s a better pitcher or hitter.

Green and McKay could be the top selections in the June 12 draft. The Twins and Reds pick first and second, respectively, followed by the Padres, Rays, Braves and A’s.

Ohtani, 22, has a power arm and power bat. He had a 1.86 ERA and 9.957 WHIP last season while hitting .322 with 22 homers and 67 RBIs. He has missed most of this season with a hamstring injury but is targeted for the majors in 2018, perhaps as an American Leaguer so he could be a designated hitter.

Nobody’s the next Babe Ruth, the freakiest of freaks (with apologies to Tim Lincecum) because of how he dominated as a pitcher and hitter, but let’s not rule out the possibility of a star pitcher-hitter down the road.

Analytic-driven front offices are open to change and creativity, and perhaps it’s the right time to give two-way players a chance. Or two chances.

John Shea is The San Francisco Chronicle’s national baseball writer. Email: Twitter: @JohnSheaHey