Japanese superstar right-handed pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto has already met with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and could potentially be on their off-season radar.
One of the most hyped free agents of this upcoming off-season isn’t from the United States or Major League Baseball. It’s NBP (Japan’s highest professional league) pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The Pittsburgh Pirates are one of the teams who might make a serious push to acquire the right-hander’s services. The organization has already met with the Japanese superstar pitcher, and with him likely heading to the United States over the next off-season, the Pirates could be a serious contender for the right-hander.
Yamamoto is dominant, and that’s seriously underselling him. In 150 innings pitched this season, Yamamoto has a 1.20 ERA, an 0.83 WHIP, 6.33 K:BB ratio. Yamamoto has struck out just over a quarter of opponents faced with a 26.3% strikeout rate. Believe it or not, but that’s probably his worst statistic. Yamamoto has only allowed two home runs, leading to a 0.12 HR/9 rate. His walk rate is just 4.2%.
Yamamoto has pitched seven seasons in Japan. This will mark the third season in a row, as well as the fourth time in his career that he’s posted a sub-2.00 ERA. Yamamoto has not posted a WHIP of 1.00 or greater since 2017 when he pitched 57.1 innings at just 18 years old. His NBP ERA is 1.74. Since MLB lowered the mound in 1969, there have only been 12 instances of a pitcher throwing at least 150 innings and pitching to an ERA of 1.80 or lower. Yamamoto has not only been able to accomplish this feat three times already but has a career ERA under 1.80.
There’s little doubt that Yamamoto’s stuff would play in the Majors. He is throwing in the mid-90s and tops out around 98-99 MPH. He also throws a cutter, a curveball, and a splitter. According to FanGraphs, his splitter is his best pitch and his most used secondary offering. His fastball has multitudes to it as well. He can cut it, sink it, or make it ride through the zone. Plus he’s displayed outstanding command over everything. You don’t just post a walk rate below 5% on the basis of control alone. Yamamoto is also an athletic pitcher. FanGraphs loves his make-up, stating that he’s a “70-grade on-mound athlete.”
According to fellow staff writer Kody Duncan, the Pirates have already engaged in talks with Yamamoto. Yamamoto would be an awesome pick-up for the Pirates. He would immediately slot into the Pirates rotation and might just become one of baseball’s better pitchers. I know that many will say that the Pirates won’t ever offer him anything, but Japanese culture is very different from American culture. If the Pirates offer a competitive contract to Yamamoto, it could come down to which team he prefers over just the money.