Who is Yoshinobu Yamamoto? Age, stats and more to know about star Japanese pitcher moving to MLB

The MLB offseason has shifted its focus from one Japanese superstar to another. 

All eyes were on Shohei Ohtani at the start of the 2023-24 offseason, as the two-way superstar was without a doubt the biggest free agent in MLB history to this date. After a tumultuous week following the Winter Meetings, the sweepstakes are over, and the Dodgers are the lucky winners after signing Ohtani to a 10-year, $700 million contract, the largest in MLB history. 

With Ohtani off the board, teams are zeroing in on Yoshinobu Yamamoto, an ace pitcher from Japan who is making the jump from his home country to MLB.

There have been a plethora of Japanese stars to come over to North America over the years. However, Yamamoto is arguably the most intriguing Japanese prospect since Ohtani signed with the Angels ahead of the 2018 season. 

With the Orix Buffaloes, Yamamoto accumulated a 1.72 ERA as a starter over seven seasons. He ended his NPB career by winning his third consecutive Pacific League Most Valuable Player Award, becoming only the third player ever to accomplish the feat. Yamamoto joined Mariners legend Ichiro Suzuki and right-handed pitcher Hisashi Yamada, a submariner who dominated the league during the ’70s, in the elite company.

Yamamoto starred for Japan at the 2023 World Baseball Classic, helping the Japanese win the international tournament, while catching the eyes of quite a few baseball followers in the process. He will undoubtedly make a major impact in MLB — it’s just a matter of where. 

MORE: Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s posting process, explained

Here is more information on Yamamoto, including his stats in Japan and potential landing spots in the MLB. 

How old is Yoshinobu Yamamoto?

Yamamoto is 25 years old. He was born on August 17, 1998. 

The ace is on the younger side of Japanese athletes coming over to North America. Last year, Mets pitcher Kodai Senga was 29 years old when he inked a five-year deal with New York, as was Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida when he agreed to a deal with Boston. In 2021, outfielder Seiya Suzuki signed with the Cubs at 27 years old. Ohtani was 23 when he signed with the Angels and turned 24 in the middle of his first MLB season.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto stats

Yamamato wasn’t just a good pitcher in the NPB. He wasn’t just a great pitcher. He was the league’s no-doubt ace for three consecutive seasons, building one of the most impressive resumes in baseball. 

The right-handed hurler led the NPB in wins, ERA and strikeouts three years in a row, resulting in Yamamoto earning three consecutive Eiji Sawamura Awards, which is Japan’s equivalent to the  Cy Young Award. The only other NPB pitcher to ever accomplish that feat was Masaichi Kaneda, a pitcher who was a dominant force in the ’50s. 

Season Games Record ERA IP SO BB CG
2017 5 1-1 5.32 23.2 20 7 0
2018 54 4-2 2.89 53.0 46 16 0
2019 20 8-6 1.95 143.0 127 36 1
2020 18 8-4 2.20 126.2 149 37 1
2021 26 18-5 1.39 193.2 206 40 6
2022 26 15-5 1.68 193.0 205 42 4
2023 23 16-6 1.31 164.0 169 28 2

MORE: How does Shohei Ohtani’s new deal compare to biggest contracts in sports history?

Yoshinobu Yamamoto agent

Yamamoto is represented by the Wasserman agency. SNY reported in September that the belief is that Joel Wolfe is his agent.

Wolfe has represented a number of notable MLB players, including last year’s top Japanese free agent in Senga. He also represents Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton, helping land the outfielder a 13-year, $325 million extension, which at the time was the largest in MLB history.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto landing spots in MLB

Just about every team in the MLB should be interested in signing Yamamoto. He projects to be an immediate No. 1 in most rotations and should compete for multiple Cy Youngs in his career. At only 25 years old, there is plenty to like about Yamamoto’s future in the league. 

Here are a few of the teams that have been confirmed to have an interest in Yamamoto:

Los Angeles Dodgers

What’s better than landing the top free agent? Signing the top two free agents, of course! Even after landing Ohtani, the Dodgers are reportedly still in on Yamamoto. Los Angeles needs a boost to its starting rotation, with the possibility of Clayton Kershaw walking in free agency, and the uncertainty with Walker Buehler and Dustin May coming off major surgeries. 

MORE: Complete breakdown of Shohei Ohtani’s Dodgers contract, by the minute

New York Mets

One year after signing the top Japanese free agent, the Mets are looking to do the same again. New York has already said that the team is building toward competing in 2025 after a disastrous 2023 season, but that shouldn’t stop the Mets from going after Yamamoto. Owner Steve Cohen reportedly flew to Japan to sit down with Yamamoto, clearly showcasing an interest in the young arm. 

New York Yankees

Like the Dodgers, the Yankees aren’t satisfied with landing one superstar this offseason. After acquiring slugger Juan Soto from the Padres, New York remains interested in Yamamoto to add to its starting rotation. The Yankees don’t need a No. 1, as they have the reigning AL Cy Young winner in Gerrit Cole. But a 1-2 punch of Cole and Yamamoto? Deadly. 

San Francisco Giants

The Giants continue to be “in” on a number of high-profile free agents, and Yamamoto is no exception. San Francisco has been looking to make a major splash in free agency dating back to last year when the team thought it landed slugger Arson Aaron Judge. The Giants have reportedly already met with Yamamoto, who would give the team a bona-fide ace in its rotation to pair with the Logan Webb. 

Boston Red Sox

Has there been a team more “in” on big-name free agents in recent history to not actually land them? The Red Sox are looking to get out of the AL East cellar, and the new front office has promised fans that the club will be ultra-aggressive in free agency to make a big splash. That includes Yamamoto, as starting pitching is without a doubt the club’s biggest need, with no clear No. 1 or No. 2 on the roster. 

Source : ESPN.com

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