Yoshinobu Yamamoto Impresses in Spring Training, Dodgers’ GM Backs Japanese Ace for MLB Stardom

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Feb 9, 2024; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto (18) throws from the practice mound as members of his team watch on at Camelback Ranch during Spring Training Workouts. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports
Forget sailing the world in an inner tube. Imagine handing a $325 million contract to a pitcher who’s never thrown a single MLB pitch. Sounds crazy, right? That’s exactly what the Los Angeles Dodgers did with Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a 25-year-old Japanese phenom with a unique training regimen and an arsenal of nasty pitches that left even seasoned veterans speechless. Is this a gamble destined for disaster or the dawn of a new era in pitcher evaluation?
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Yamamoto’s journey is like no other. Unlike the typical gym rat pitcher, he ditches weights for javelins and focuses on flexibility. It might sound unorthodox, but the results speak for themselves. His first bullpen session for the Dodgers had jaws dropped. “Easy 95-96 mph fastball,” “depth on his off-speed offerings,” and a “breaking ball ‘that seems to speed up as it approaches the plate’” were just a few of the rave reviews given by the likes of the Dodgers’ GM, Brandon Gomes, while describing the prize that is Yamamoto to The Post. And that’s not even half of it.
An “unprecedented” gamble: Dodgers bank on unproven ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto to dominate MLB
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GM Gomes isn’t even slightly fazed by Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s lack of MLB experience. While witnessing the ace in his zone this Spring Training, he emphasizes the importance of “stuff and command,” and looking at Yamamoto’s arsenal, it’s easy to see why.
His fastball sizzles at 97 mph, his curveball drops a staggering 65 inches, and his splitter, lovingly nicknamed the “wipeout split-finger” by MLB.com, is a strikeout machine. And this is not just hype, but hard data speaking on the ace’s behalf.
Gone are the days when international players were viewed with skepticism. Advanced pitch-tracking technology provides a window into their abilities, and in Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s case, the data is clear: his “stuff” is elite, comparable to established Japanese stars like Rōki Sasaki and Shohei Ohtani. This, combined with his “incredible work ethic and dedication,” as Gomes puts it, convinced the Dodgers to take a chance. So what’s the verdict?
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Too early to tell, but exciting times ahead
Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s success could mark a shift in player evaluation. Size and traditional training methods might no longer be the sole determinants. As Gomes says, “We are recognizing that body types don’t necessarily mean everything.” This opens doors for players who might not fit the typical mold, potentially leading to a more diverse and dynamic pitching landscape.
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Only time will tell if Yamamoto’s dominance translates from Japan to the big leagues. But it is impossible not to notice that his arrival has injected excitement into the baseball world. His unique story, combined with his jaw-dropping arsenal, makes him a must-watch player. Will he be the next Cy Young winner, or will the pressure and unfamiliarity prove too much? After all, this is just the beginning of Yamamoto’s journey.

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