Jordan Yamamoto Finishes Strong In AFL

Jordan Yamamoto is nothing if not humble.

How else to explain why the Twitter page for this 22-year-old righthander prominently features his golf shot hitting a tree, bouncing back and hitting him in his privates—and all of that caught on video?

Yamamoto will go down in history as one of the prospects who was traded for Christian Yelich, who earned National League MVP honors the next season.

“That’s pretty cool,” said Yamamoto, a 6-foot, 185-pound Hawaii native who was the Brewers’ 12th-round pick in 2014 out of high school in Honolulu. “But the Brewers have moved on, and so have the Marlins.”

Yamamoto was the lowest-ranked of the four prospects the Marlins received from Milwaukee in January 2018 for Yelich—a package that included outfielders Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison and second baseman Isan Diaz.

“If they want to say I was a throw-in, I’m a throw in,” Yamamoto said. “But I don’t have to prove myself to fans or analysts. If the Marlins believe in me, I’m going to give them all I can.”

So far, that’s working out fine for the Marlins. Yamamoto has improved his ERA in each of the past four seasons, and the Marlins added him to the 40-man roster this offseason to shield him from the Rule 5 draft.

In his first season with the Marlins in 2018, Yamamoto struck out 118 in 98.2 innings, walking 32 while producing a 1.82 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP, counting his time in the Arizona Fall League. He missed two months with to a shoulder impingement, which has been a bit of a chronic problem, but he used the AFL to get close to 100 innings.

With just three starts at Double-A, that level is his likely destination to start 2019.

Born in Pearl City, Hawaii, Yamamoto didn’t come from a baseball family. His father is a mechanic and a former dirt-bike racer.

But baseball was Yamamoto’s thing, and he turned down Arizona to go pro. He has made steady progress since, and his last performance of 2018 was stellar. He struck out six in four scoreless innings in the AFL title game.

Though undersized and lacking a big arm—he pitches at 89-93 mph—Yamamoto uses a high spin rate to get batters with his assortment of fastball, curveball, changeup and slider.

“I don’t throw very hard, but I don’t look at the (radar) gun much,” Yamamoto said. “I try to get ahead of hitters and have them hit my pitch.”

If Yamamoto continues on this trajectory, he should be in the majors by 2020, if not sooner—as long as he can avoid ricocheting golf balls.

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