Yusuke Yamamoto Dominates with 17 Wins and Predictions for Japanese MLB Rookies | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Yusuke Yamamoto Dominates with 17 Wins and Predictions for Japanese MLB Rookies

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Yamamoto joined the Dodgers with an extraordinary contract worth approximately 47 billion yen over 12 years.On January 8, the official website of the major leagues released the results of a survey to predict this season’s Rookie of the Year, and the winner was the most popular candidate, Yoshinobu Yamamoto (25), who joined the Dodgers from the Orix. In the National League, Yamamoto was the clear winner, far ahead of the second-place finisher (17%).


Will Yamamoto be able to live up to the fans’ expectations? What about Hiroki Matsui (28), who will join the Padres from Rakuten, Shota Imanaga (30, DeNA), who signed with the Cubs, and Naoyuki Uesawa (29, Nippon Ham), whose destination has not been decided as of January 10. Nachi Tomonari, a sports journalist with extensive knowledge of the major leagues, offers his predictions for these four Japanese rookie pitchers (all statements are from Mr. Tomonari).

Proper rest can be achieved with a Seven-man rotation


First is Yamamoto, who signed a 12-year, 47 billion yen contract.

“Having a high-velocity fastball and a low-splitter is a key condition for success among pitchers in the Major Leagues. Hideo Nomo, Shingo Takatsu, and Masahiro Tanaka, all used these two pitch types effectively and excelled in the United States. Yamamoto is also proficient with these two pitch types, and he is expected to perform well.

The Dodgers as a team provide significant advantages for Yamamoto. With strong offensive and defensive capabilities, he can pitch with confidence. While most Major League teams typically prepare around five starting pitchers, the Dodgers incorporate a seven-man rotation each year. This system allows for rest if any starting pitcher accumulates fatigue or experiences a dip in performance. Yamamoto, eager to showcase his skills, may push himself hard from early spring, potentially leading to fatigue around midsummer. However, with the Dodgers, he can receive adequate rest when needed.”

Having the accomplished Shohei Ohtani as a teammate is undoubtedly reassuring. How well he will perform specifically is hard to predict.

“The Major Leagues are known for being hitter-friendly, and the ERA is likely to be around 3 points (Yamamoto has maintained an ERA in the 1s over the past three years). His ERA would be similar to that of the Mets’ Kodai Senga last season (2.98). Considering the significantly more potent offensive lineup of the Dodgers compared to the Mets, Yamamoto may benefit from solid run support and achieve a record of 17 wins and 5 losses. Leading the league in wins is not an unrealistic dream.”

Next, he predicts Imanaga, who started in the WBC final last March.

“Imanaga is evaluated as a pitcher with high strikeout ability. Against the aggressive Major League hitters, he is likely to secure more strikeouts than when he was in Japan (he led the league with 174 last season). However, given his approach to prioritize strikeouts, there may be cases where he concedes home runs. I anticipate a relatively balanced performance with a record of 12 wins and 10 losses, and an ERA in the low 4s.”

Similarly, there are many uncertainties surrounding Matsui, who also participated in last year’s WBC.

“The WBC ball doesn’t suit him, and he hasn’t had any outstanding results in international tournaments. It remains to be seen if he can make it in the majors. He will be used as a set-up man, but he will pitch in more games.

The Padres can only rely on Yu Darvish, and their starters are weak. I am worried that the relay pitchers will be overburdened and fatigue will set in. He will be forced to pitch even in losing games, so he may have a hard time maintaining motivation. 3 wins, 5 losses, 5 saves, and a defensive rating in the low 4s.”

Finally, there is Uesawa, who pitched 170 innings last season, the most in the league.

“The last one is Uesawa, who pitched 170 innings last season, the most in the league. As the fourth or fifth pitcher in a starting lineup, he can pitch long innings even if he gets a few runs. Uesawa’s skill at getting batters to hit and score is ideal for this role. However, he doesn’t possess exceptional pitches, so there might be some challenges. I anticipate a record of 5 wins, 9 losses, with an ERA in the low 5s.”

Whether they live up to expectations or face unexpected challenges, the performances of the four Japanese rookie pitchers in the Major Leagues seem poised to be quite distinct.


  • PHOTO AP/Afro

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