Who is Yoshinobu Yamamoto? Everything to know about Dodgers SP making MLB debut

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto (18) will make his first MLB spring training start on Wednesday. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto (18) will make his first MLB spring training start on Wednesday. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the top free agents of MLB's latest offseason both landed with the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this winter. One made his debut with his new team on Tuesday. The other will make his Wednesday.

The former is generational talent Shohei Ohtani, who joined the Dodgers after leaving behind their cross-town rivals when he signed a $700 million contract – the largest in professional sports history – in early December. The latter is Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a 25-year-old rookie coming to the United States from Japan's professional baseball league, NPB.

Los Angeles will get its first glimpse of what it has in Yamamoto, who was the top starting pitcher available on the free agent market this offseason, on Wednesday.

Here's everything to know about the Dodgers' Japanese star.

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Who is Yoshinobu Yamamoto?

Yamamoto began his professional baseball career with NPB's Orix Buffaloes in August 2017, having just turned 19.

The Japanese star dominated NPB competition and wowed MLB scouts over his last few seasons by turning his relatively small stature (5 feet, 10 inches) into an advantage.

Yamamoto's unique delivery helped get his fastball to an average of over 95 mph last year with a high spin rate. That spin rate, paired with the low release point that comes with his stature, makes the ball appear to have a "rising" trajectory.

He also boasts an excellent splitter and a good curveball along with his fastball, all of which have managed to fool hitters throughout his career.

How to watch Yoshinobu Yamamoto to make Dodgers start. How to watch star pitcher's debut

The Buffaloes fell just short of back-to-back Japan Series championships with Yamamoto after losing Game 7 last year. Later that same day, Nov. 5, Orix announced the young pitcher would enter the international posting system that offseason, giving him MLB free agent eligibility.

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Yoshinobu Yamamoto stats

The 25 year old experienced moderate struggles in his first two seasons in Japan's top league, posting a 5.32 ERA in five games his first season and cutting it to 2.89 in 2018. Since then, Yamamoto's ERA never rose above 2.50 in five more seasons of NPB play.

Orix's star pitcher won NPB's Triple Crown three straight times from 2021-2023 as he led the Pacific League in ERA (1.39, 1.68, 1.21 each year, respectively), strikeouts (206, 205, 169) and wins (18, 15, 16). He won the league's MVP award in each of those three seasons as well.

High strikeout numbers were part of the reason for the Okayama, Japan native's excellent ERA and win totals, but another big part was his ability to limit walks and home runs.

He had a 2.1 BB/9 and 0.4 HR/9 mark over seven seasons in Japan's top league. For reference, MLB pitchers averaged 3.3 BB/9 and 1.2 HR/9 in 2023.

Yamamoto also has two no-hitters on his NPB pitching résumé with one in each of the last two seasons.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto contract

In late December, Yamamoto agreed to terms on a 12-year, $325 million contract with the Dodgers.

The deal is tied with Rangers shortstop Corey Seager for fourth-largest contract in MLB history. The $325 million price tag is also the largest for a pitcher in baseball history, though Yankees star Gerrit Cole's nine-year, $324 million deal has a higher average annual value.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto: Japanese star to make Dodgers start. How to watch rookie pitcher's debut

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dodgers' Yoshinobu Yamamoto: Contract, stats ahead of MLB debut