Cardinals’ Lars Nootbaar Praises ‘Special Pitcher’ Yoshinobu Yamamoto

The Los Angeles Dodgers continued their impressive offseason with the reported signing of Yoshinobu Yamamoto to a record-setting 12-year, $325 million contract.

The 25-year-old went 17-6 with a 1.21 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 176 strikeouts in 24 games for the Orix Buffaloes this year. He finished his Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) career with a third consecutive Eiji Sawamura Award and Pacific League MVP.

Yamamoto is projected to be an ace in MLB behind a four-pitch mix that includes a high-90s fastball, curveball, cutter and splitter.

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbaar, who was teammates with Yamamoto on Team Japan in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, raved about the right-hander’s potential, per Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times:

“As a hitter, you try to eliminate so many things and try to focus on one, but with him, he has so many weapons, and they all move so much,” said Nootbaar, the former El Segundo High School and USC standout. “He’s a special pitcher, for sure.”

Yamamoto’s best pitch is arguably his splitter, and Nootbaar believes his overall pitch mix will allow him to have a smooth transition to the Majors:

“It’s just not fair to have a pitch that moves as much as it does and is as heavy as it seems at the velocity he’s throwing it,” Nootbaar said. “If you have a guy throwing a 91-93-mph fastball, and his splitter is at 82-84 mph, you have a chance because you don’t have to cheat to get to the fastball.

“But when you have a guy who can throw as hard as he does, and you throw the splitter at different velocities, it’s really not fair. Then he’s got that big breaker and the cutter that he plays off those. You’re just kind of at a loss for words when you’re watching it.”

Some scouts have concerns about Yamamoto’s durability due to his small frame, but others believe his clean mechanics and training regimen will mitigate any injury risk.

After sharing the field with Team Japan, Yamamoto and Nootbaar could potentially face each other for the first time when the Dodgers host the Cardinals on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto ‘loved’ the Dodgers for multiple years

Prior to signing with the Dodgers, a report indicated that Yamamoto grew up a fan of the team. Another report confirmed he has been enamored with the organization for multiple years.

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