Who is Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the Japanese ace enticing the Yankees?

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the Japanese ace

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During the Yankees’ Old Timers Day event at Yankee Stadium on September 9, 2023, it was notably surprising that the team’s general manager, Brian Cashman, did not make an appearance, especially given that the 1998 season marked his inaugural year in the role, a position he has held ever since.

Instead, Cashman, alongside members of his front office team, was in Japan. Their purpose was to scout Japanese right-handed pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who pitched his second career no-hitter. This impressive achievement took place in the presence of several MLB executives.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s outstanding performance included eight strikeouts, one walk, and hitting one batter, ultimately resulting in a 4-0 victory for the Orix Buffaloes. Furthermore, this remarkable outing extended his scoreless streak to an impressive 42 innings. It’s worth noting that the 25-year-old pitcher is expected to be posted to major league teams during the offseason, sparking intense competition and bidding wars for his services. Everything fit perfectly at that moment for it to be one of the greatest moments in Yankees history. If only…

Who is Yoshinobu Yamamoto?

Japanese pitching sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto plays in the Nippon League and is a target by many MLB clubs.
Japan Times

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, born on August 17, 1998, is a Japanese professional baseball pitcher who currently plays for the Orix Buffaloes in the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league. His NPB journey began in 2017 when he made his debut. Yoshinobu Yamamoto has earned the Pacific League Most Valuable Player title twice, a remarkable achievement considering his career ERA stands at an impressive 1.84.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s debut in the Nippon Professional Baseball League took place on August 20, 2017, as a member of the Orix Buffaloes, competing in the Pacific League. His standout performance in the 2021 season showcased an 18–5 record and a remarkable 206 strikeouts across 193+2⁄3 innings pitched. His outstanding 1.39 earned run average (ERA) led the league, earning him the Pacific League Most Valuable Player Award for that season.

Standing at 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 meters) and weighing 177 pounds (80 kilograms), Yoshinobu Yamamoto is a right-handed pitcher known for his three-quarters delivery. He possesses a fastball with an average speed of 94–95 miles per hour (151–153 km/h), which can reach a top velocity of 99 miles per hour (159 km/h). His repertoire also includes a deceptive splitter, a cutter, and a curveball. Scouts have lauded his splitter as a formidable out-pitch capable of succeeding at the highest level of baseball.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s pitching arsenal comprises three exceptional pitches, with his splitter being particularly devastating, inducing ground balls and strikeouts. Additionally, his curveball’s unorthodox release keeps hitters off balance. His exceptional control is a standout attribute, evident in his impressive performance, as he has issued only 24 walks in the current season, translating to a 4.2% walk rate. To put this into perspective, only four pitchers in MLB this season have achieved a superior walk rate while pitching a minimum of 100 innings.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the new Yankees' target, playing for Japan
World Baseball Confederation

On June 18, 2022, Yoshinobu Yamamoto achieved his second career no-hitter and the 97th in NPB history, guiding the Buffaloes to a 2–0 victory over the Saitama Seibu Lions. In his 26 starts for Orix in 2022, Yoshinobu Yamamoto achieved a remarkable 15–5 record and maintained an outstanding 1.68 ERA with 205 strikeouts in 193 innings pitched. Following that season, he secured his second consecutive Eiji Sawamura Award, further solidifying his status as one of the most accomplished pitchers in Japanese baseball history. He also clinched his second consecutive pitching Triple Crown.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto has represented the Japan national baseball team in various international competitions, including the 2019 exhibition games against Mexico and the 2019 WBSC Premier12 on February 27, 2019. Additionally, he contributed to Japan’s victory in the World Baseball Classic earlier this year, posting a 1-0 record with a 2.45 ERA in two starts and one relief appearance. During that tournament, he struck out 12 batters and issued just two walks across 7⅓ innings.

The 25-year-old right-hander has enjoyed a remarkable year, excelling both on the international stage and in Nippon Professional Baseball. In the World Baseball Classic, he struck out 12 out of 27 batters faced, conceding only four hits en route to Japan’s championship victory. In NPB, his performance has been nothing short of sensational, boasting an astonishing 1.26 ERA with 145 strikeouts in 143 innings, along with allowing just two home runs. His record stands at 14-5 with 24 walks. Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s accolades include winning the Sawamura Award, equivalent to the Cy Young Award in NPB, and achieving the NPB pitching triple crown by leading the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts for the past two seasons, cementing his legacy as one of Japan’s most decorated pitchers in baseball history.

The MLB entry

Yoshinobu-Yamamoto
Twitter-@SNYtv

Before this year, scouts held Yoshinobu Yamamoto in high regard, with one scout telling Joel Sherman of the New York Post that he was “a full grade better” than Kodai Senga, who had an impressive first season with the New York Mets as an All-Star. Additionally, last December, Keith Law of The Athletic identified Yoshinobu Yamamoto as a potential MLB number-one starter. Since then, he has had the most outstanding season of his career, enhancing his reputation and increasing his market value.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s decision to emigrate to MLB this offseason was influenced by the league’s rules for international free agents. He celebrated his 25th birthday on August 17, which meant he was no longer subject to MLB’s international amateur bonus regulations. If he had made the leap to MLB before turning 25, these rules would have cost him a substantial amount of money, potentially in the hundreds of millions.

While Yoshinobu Yamamoto hasn’t accrued enough service time to attain free agent status in Japan, he is expected to be offered to MLB teams through the posting system, which has been agreed upon by MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball.

In Japan, players typically don’t become free agents until they’ve completed ten seasons. Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who was drafted by Orix in 2017, has spent seven years in NPB, meaning he isn’t a conventional free agent. Nevertheless, he anticipates that the Buffaloes will post him for MLB consideration. According to MLB.com, “The release fee will be 20 percent of the first $25 million plus 17.5 percent of the next $25 million, plus 15 percent of the total guaranteed value exceeding $50 million.”

For a player of Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s caliber, the release fee is unlikely to be a significant deterrent. While the exact value of his contract remains uncertain, it could easily surpass $200 million. It’s rare for such a young and talented pitcher to become a free agent, so it’s anticipated that numerous MLB teams will compete for his services. His free agency is poised to be one of the major stories of the upcoming baseball offseason.

MLB posting 2023: Yankees rejected over Ohtani’s Dodgers

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the highly coveted Japanese right-hander, has signed a monumental 12-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, marking one of the most significant free-agent deals this winter. The contract, valued at $325 million, not only positions Yamamoto within the Dodgers’ ambitious roster but also sets a record for the most guaranteed dollars ever given to a pitcher, narrowly surpassing Gerrit Cole’s previous record by $1 million. Additionally, the Dodgers are responsible for a posting fee of approximately $50 million to Yamamoto’s former team, the Orix Buffaloes, in the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league.

Yamamoto, 25, has established himself as a premier pitcher with a slender build, standing at 5-foot-10. His pitching arsenal includes a mid-to-upper 90s fastball and multiple wipeout secondary pitches, such as his signature curveball, alongside a splitter and cutter/slider. This combination of pitches contributed to his dominance in the NPB, where he achieved the pitching Triple Crown by leading the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts for three consecutive seasons. He also secured the Eiji Sawamura Award, Japan’s equivalent of the Cy Young, during the same period.

Over the past three seasons, Yamamoto compiled an impressive record of 49-16 with a 1.44 ERA and 580 strikeouts, highlighting his exceptional pitching skills. His performance peaked in his final NPB start, where he struck out 14 batters in a complete game on 138 pitches, showcasing his ability under pressure.

Beyond his pitching accolades, Yamamoto’s preparation and training regimen is noteworthy. He utilizes unconventional tools for strength training, such as a yoga mat, wooden blocks, tiny soccer balls, and mini-javelins, emphasizing flexibility and movement over traditional weightlifting. This approach underscores his dedication to maintaining peak physical condition and optimizing his pitching mechanics.

Yamamoto’s decision to join the Dodgers, rejecting other potential offers, including from the New York Yankees, reflects his strategic choice for his MLB career. The Dodgers’ commitment to assembling a competitive team is evident in their offseason moves, highlighted by the signings of Shohei Ohtani and Tyler Glasnow, along with Yamamoto, totaling over $1.1 billion in deals. This aggressive strategy aims to bolster their rotation, particularly in light of recovering pitchers like Walker Buehler, Dustin May, and Tony Gonsolin.

The Dodgers’ acquisition of Yamamoto not only adds depth to their pitching rotation but also secures a potential frontline starter who has demonstrated exceptional talent, work ethic, and mental toughness. His unique training methods and successful track record in the NPB set high expectations for his MLB debut. As he transitions to the major leagues, Yamamoto’s performance will be closely watched, with anticipation that he will continue to excel and adapt to the challenges of MLB, following in the footsteps of other successful Japanese pitchers in the league. What do you think? Leave your comment below.

Standard Pitching NPB

YearWLW-L%ERARA9GGSGFCGSHOSVIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPH9HR9BB9SO9SO/W
2017310.752.352.35135000057.1521515390482002291.0648.20.51.47.55.33
20172010.270.27800033.22011020281001200.6535.300.57.514
2017110.55.325.3255000023.2321414370201001091.64812.21.12.77.62.86
2018620.752.12.3460001775020184231693123000.9485.80.52.78.13
2018420.6672.893.2354001534019174161462022131.0576.80.72.77.82.88
20182010.380.38600024101107023110870.7083.802.68.63.29
2019870.5331.992.4221110149105403383701333135760.9536.30.52.283.59
2019860.5711.952.3320110143101373183601273135530.9586.40.52.383.53
201901034.5100064320106000230.833601.596
2020840.6672.22.4218100126.282343163701496014940.9395.80.42.610.64.03
20211850.7831.391.7226640193.2124373074012062037360.8475.80.31.99.65.15
20221550.751.681.9626420193137423664202055007470.9276.40.329.64.88
20231760.7391.161.4224210171119272222801766016590.866.30.11.59.36.29
20231660.7271.211.4823210164117272222801696016360.8846.40.11.59.36.04
202310100100072000007000230.2862.6009
WLW-L%ERARA9GGSGFCGSHOSVIPHRERHRBBIBBSOHBPBKWPBFWHIPH9HR9BB9SO9SO/W
Foreign (7 seasons)75300.7141.722188501481967.26692151853621629862721037410.9156.20.329.24.56
NPB (7 seasons)70290.7071.822.111725014818976332101813620629222511034880.9356.40.42.19.34.48
All Levels (7 Seasons)75300.7141.722188501481967.26692151853621629862721037410.9156.20.329.24.56

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