Dodgers 2024 pitching rotation with Yoshinobu Yamamoto: How Japanese star fits with Tyler Glasnow, Walker Buehler

When the Dodgers began this offseason, the starting pitching for 2024 looked bleak. With Clayton Kershaw hitting free agency, Tony Gonsolin missing all of next year with Tommy John, Dustin May’s unknown timeline for a return and Walker Buehler returning from Tommy John, it left a lot of question marks on the mound. 

Fast forward to now, and Los Angeles may very well have the strongest rotation in baseball. 

The Dodgers followed up the massive signing of two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani by landing his fellow countryman Yoshinobu Yamamato, inking the Japanese ace to the largest deal ever signed to an MLB pitcher. Yamamoto was the most coveted free agent option after Ohtani, and the Dodgers worked their magic to land both. 

Yamamato is 25 years old, about to enter his prime. He is a three-time winner of the Eiji Sawamura Award, Nippon Professional Baseball’s equivalent of the Cy Young, and is regarded as the top Japanese prospect to come over to North American since Ohtani for the 2018 season. 

In seven seasons in NPB, Yamamoto posted an ERA of 1.82 across 897 innings with 922 strikeouts and a WHIP of .935. Last year, he compiled an impressive 1.16 ERA in 171 innings with 176 strikeouts, 28 walks and just 119 hits allowed.

MORE: How much money Yoshinobu Yamamoto will make with the Dodgers?

While the Dodgers won’t be able to pair Ohtani and Yamamoto in the 2024 rotation due to Ohtani’s UCL injury, the rotation is still extremely dangerous. Los Angeles went out and traded for Rays ace Tyler Glasnow earlier this month, and are getting back Buehler, a Cy Young contender when healthy. 

Here is a look at the Dodgers’ projected pitching rotation for the 2024 MLB season. 

Dodgers 2024 pitching rotation projection

Just a month ago, the Los Angeles rotation looked sketchy for 2023. Now, it’s been completely transformed with the additions of Yamamoto and Glasnow, plus the pending return of Walker Buehler. 

Here’s a look at what the Dodgers’ pitching rotation could be on Opening Day.

1. Yoshinobu Yamamoto
2. Walker Buehler
3. Tyler Glasnow
4. Bobby Miller
5. Emmet Sheehan

With the signing of Yamamoto and the return of Buehler, it’ll be hard to find a better 1-2 punch than what the Dodgers can roll out — when healthy. Buehler is going to miss some time to start the year as he recovers from Tommy John, but if he can return to the dominant form he showed in his young career, that is a lethal top of the rotation. 

Having Glasnow as your third pitcher is absurd, but similarly to Buehler, he also has health concerns. The lanky right-hander is recovering from an oblique strain that caused him to miss the start of the 2023 season. He has had multiple injuries in the past, but when healthy, he is an ace on a majority of MLB clubs. 

Bobby Miller put together an impressive rookie campaign last year. The 2020 first-round pick made 22 starts for Los Angeles last year, finishing with an 11-4 record, 3.76 ERA and 119 strikeouts. If he continues to progress in his sophomore season, he’ll be yet another threat on the mound for Robert’s squad. 

Emmett Sheehan emerged late in the 2023 season as a starter for the Dodgers. After beginning the year in Double-A Tulsa, the 2021 sixth-round pick made his MLB debut in June. In total, the righty made 11 starts and two relief appearances, posting a 4–1 record and a 4.92 ERA.

MORE: How much money is Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto costing Dodgers?

If Buehler is not set to begin the season, expect the Dodgers to turn to southpaw Ryan Yarbrough to round out the rotation. A 2023 deadline acquisition from the Rays, the lefty made 11 appearances (two starts) for the Dodgers. Yarbrough has bounced between a reliever and a starter for most of his career, giving Los Angeles a flexible option as a fifth starting pitcher or an innings eater out of the bullpen. 

The Dodgers are also awaiting the decision on three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. The 35-year-old is a free agent and is still mulling over his options for the 2024 season, with retirement potentially in the picture. If Kershaw elects to re-sign with the Dodgers, he’ll bump Yarbrough to the bullpen, if the rest of the rotation is healthy. 

What Yoshinobu Yamamoto brings to the rotation

Yamamoto’s scouting report can be summed up in a single word — nasty. 

The Japanese right hander automatically becomes the star of a loaded Dodgers rotation. He should be in contention for the Cy Young practically every year. 

In terms of pitches, Yamamoto throws mostly a fastball, curveball and sinker, but will also mix in a cutter and a slider. 

Yamamoto’s fastball doesn’t have the velocity like other aces, but his unique release allows the pitch to explode towards the top of the zone. He can top out in the high-90s, but for the most part, the righty sits right around 95 mph. He throws both a four-seam and a two-seam fastball. 

Like most Japanese pitchers, he also has a splitter that is extremely effective against left-handed batters. Yamamoto has a knack for adjusting speeds and spin to his pitches, and it’s evident with the splitter. While the pitch averages 90 mph, he has shown an ability to ramp it up and hit 93 mph, while also dropping the velocity to as low as 82 mph. 

MORE: Who is Yoshinobu Yamamoto? Age, stats, more to know about latest Dodgers signing

But without a doubt, Yamamoto’s most impressive — and beautiful — pitch is his curveball. If Kershaw ends up not re-signing with the Dodgers, don’t fear LA fans, the swooping curve will live on with Yamamoto. It’s a pitch that looks like it’s going to finish high in the zone, but the bottom drops out, landing right into the zone.

While exceptionally effective in the NPB, the concern is that it won’t translate to the MLB as well. Major league batters have adjusted to that kind of pitch, resulting in less pitchers throwing it. However, given his mix of other pitches, there is absolutely still a path for Yamamoto to use the curveball for swing-and-misses. 

Yamamoto rarely ever throws his slider, which acts more as a sweeper than a traditional slider. His cutter is utilized more frequently with right-handed batters, but the Japanese star has shown he will challenge lefties in on the hands with the pitch. 

There’s a reason why Yamamoto has become the highest-paid pitcher in MLB history without stepping foot on a major league mound yet. His stuff is disgusting, and his name should be on Cy Young ballots for years to come. 

Source : ESPN.com

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