Yoshinobu Yamamoto Scouting Report: Why The Dodgers Gave The Japanese Superstar A Record $325 Million Contract


Image credit: (Photo by Daniel Shirey/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

After two straight early playoff exits, the Dodgers are sparing no expense in their effort to return to the World Series.

The Dodgers agreed to sign star Japanese righthander Yoshinobu Yamamoto to a 12-year, $325 million contract Thursday night. It is the largest contract ever for a starting pitcher by total value, surpassing the nine-year, $324 million contract that Gerrit Cole signed with the Yankees after the 2019 season.

The Dodgers will also pay a $50.6 million posting fee to the Orix Buffaloes, Yamamoto’s club in Nippon Professional Baseball. The contract includes a $50 million signing bonus, no deferred money and two player opt-outs, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

The agreement comes just 10 days after the Dodgers officially signed Shohei Ohtani to a record 10-year, $700 million contract and five days after they officially acquired Rays ace Tyler Glasnow and gave him a five-year, $136.5 million contract extension. Yamamoto joins Glasnow at the front of the Dodgers revamped rotation in 2024 and will be joined by Ohtani in 2025.

Yamamoto and Ohtani played together on Japan’s gold-medal winning World Baseball Classic team this spring. Yamamoto won three straight Sawamura Awards, the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award, and the last three Pacific League Most Valuable Player awards, the first MVP three-peat since Ichiro Suzuki.

The righthander joins a long list of pitchers who signed with the Dodgers out of Japan, following in the footsteps of Hideo Nomo, Kazuhisa Ishii, Hiroki Kuroda and Kenta Maeda.

Below is a full scouting report on Yamamoto.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP

Born: Aug. 17, 1998. B-T:. R-R. HT: 5-10. WT: 176.

Track Record: In the long history of successful Japanese pitchers, none have been as decorated as Yamamoto. A former infielder who began focusing on pitching in high school, Yamamoto made his Nippon Professional Baseball debut at 18 years old in 2017 and quickly blossomed into Japan’s premier pitcher. He posted a 1.82 ERA over seven seasons as Orix’s ace and put together arguably the greatest three-year stretch by a pitcher in NPB history from 2021-23. Yamamoto won three straight Sawamura Awards, the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award, and three straight Pacific League MVP Awards, the first player to do that since Ichiro Suzuki. He showed his stuff played against MLB hitters during standout showings at the Tokyo Olympics and 2023 World Baseball Classic, helping Japan win gold medals in both, and became the first pitcher in Japanese history to throw a no-hitter in consecutive seasons. Yamamoto fittingly finished his NPB career in record-breaking fashion in the Japan Series. Pitching in Game 6 with Orix facing elimination, Yamamoto pitched a complete game with one run allowed and 14 strikeouts, breaking the series strikeout record held by Yu Darvish.

Scouting Report: Yamamoto is undersized at 5-foot-10, 176 pounds, but he’s strong in his frame and possesses a powerful arsenal he holds deep into games. His fastball sits 94-96 mph and touches 99 with little effort out of a clean, athletic delivery. He has a fast arm and commands his fastball in all quadrants of the strike zone. Yamamoto’s primary secondary pitch is a plus, 88-91 mph splitter with huge depth that induces weak ground balls and empty swings. He commands his splitter exceptionally well and has a good feel for when to use it. Yamamoto’s tight-spinning, 76-78 mph rainbow curveball is another plus pitch that freezes both lefthanded and righthanded hitters. He didn’t throw it often in Japan, but it projects to be a larger part of his repertoire in MLB. He rounds out his arsenal with an above-average, low-90s cutter/short slider that stays off of barrels. Yamamoto ties his stuff together with plus control and an aggressive, attacking mentality. He pitches with a chip on his shoulder and challenges hitters in the strike zone with no fear. He has exceptional feel for mixing his pitches and has the aptitude to make quick in-game adjustments. Yamamoto’s size yields concerns about his durability, but he’s pitched at least 170 innings each of the last three seasons and has a clean health record. He threw 138 pitches in his final start in the Japan Series and reached 98 mph in the ninth inning.

The Future: Yamamoto will have to adjust from pitching once a week in Japan to every five days in MLB, but like Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideo Nomo before him, he has the stuff and aptitude to successfully make that transition. He projects to be a No. 2 starter and has a chance to contend for Cy Young Awards.

BA Grade: 70/Medium

Scouting Grades

Fastball: 60. Curveball: 60. Slider: 55. Splitter: 60. Control: 60

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