NPB Prospect Watch: Yoshinobu Yamamoto Bounces Back From Fever With Fantastic Start

Yoshinobu Yamamoto is one of the top pitchers in Nippon Professional Baseball and is highly coveted by MLB scouts. He’s show here in action during the Japan Workout and press conference at loanDepot park on March 19, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Koji Watanabe – SAMURAI JAPAN/SAMURAI JAPAN via Getty Images)

By Julian Guilarte
World Baseball Network

Yoshinobu Yamamoto was scratched from his last start due to a fever, but the 24-year-old Orix Buffalos right hander came back with a vengeance, pitching eight shutout innings with eight strikeouts against the Hiroshima Toyo Carp Tuesday night. 

He was in complete control, giving up just two hits and not walking a batter as Orix won 4-0 in Nippon Professional Baseball. It was the first interleague game of the season for both teams.

Yamamoto has been on the MLB radar, and there have been rumblings that he could be posted for MLB teams after this season, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported earlier this year. His pitch arsenal has been compared to New York Mets pitcher Kodai Senga, who signed last offseason for five years for $75 million. 

Yamamoto’s fastball has topped out at 99 moh. His splitter is his best pitch and a pro scout that has watched him play in Japan told Sherman that he believes Yamamoto could be better than Senga. “The split-finger is a plus, plus pitch. He moves the fastball East and West really well. He’s a pitch maker. I think he is a full grade better than Kodai Senga,” the scout said. 

Yamamoto has a five-pitch arsenal with a curve, sinker and cutter as well. His curveball ranges from 77 mph to the low 80s. His curveball throws hitters off due to its unique release point and it is also a solid complement to his high fastball. A lot of fans got their first look at Yamamoto in the 2023 World Baseball Classic where he pitched for Japan. 

Yamamoto impressed against Australia, throwing four scoreless innings with eight strikeouts in 60 pitches. He was the fourth starter for Japan at the WBC, and also pitched in the semi-finals against Mexico, allowing two runs in 3.1 innings with four strikeouts. 

Yamamoto has pitched 46.1 innings this season for Orix with an ERA of 1.94 and 51 strikeouts. In 2022, he won the pitching triple crown (wins, strikeouts and ERA) in the NPB. He won 15 games, had an ERA of 1.68, and had 205 strikeouts in 193 innings, and also won the pitching triple crown in 2021.

In 2022, he threw a no-hitter against the Seibu Lions, and has put together an impressive resume at a young age. Last season, he was teammates with Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida, who signed for five years for $90 million. Yamamoto could be joining him in the MLB and a massive bidding war could take place for his services this offseason.

Yamamoto has put strong numbers across his seven seasons with Orix. He’s pitched 779.1 innings with 804 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.94 

The Orix Buffaloes are 27-19-2 and play the Hiroshima Toyo Carp (24-23) again at 5 a.m. EST. 

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