Yoshinobu Yamamoto Rookie of the Year Odds Improve
Yoshinobu Yamamoto
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

A subtle yet significant shift has occurred in the dynamic landscape of Major League Baseball’s rookie prospects on the National League Rookie of the Year betting boards. Once a top contender, Michael Busch has seen his odds slightly wane. Meanwhile, rookies Shota Imanaga and Yoshinobu Yamamoto have captured baseball bettors’ attention and imagination, demonstrating remarkable prowess on the mound for players with no prior Major League Baseball (MLB) experience.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, in particular, has emerged as a formidable force within the Dodgers’ pitching lineup. Over the past month, Yamamoto has not only maintained an impeccable record but has done so with style and efficiency. By the end of last month, he boasted a 2-0 record, a sterling 2.45 ERA, and an impressive tally of 30 strikeouts across just four appearances. Further cementing his reputation, Yamamoto delivered another outstanding performance last Wednesday, extending his winning streak to 3-0 over his previous five starts since April 6. He conceded just six earned runs during this span, demonstrating remarkable control.

With these achievements, Yamamoto’s MLB odds for the Rookie of the Year title have narrowed, now ranging from +350 to +500. His consistent performance about 35 games into the season has positioned him as a slight favorite in the race, reflecting his growing influence and potential within the league.

Moreover, while not positioned as the front-runner for the Cy Young Award, Yamamoto’s odds also reflect a strong confidence in his capabilities, fluctuating between +1500 and +1800. These figures place him prominently on the leaderboard, suggesting that his impact this season could extend well beyond rookie accolades, potentially marking him as one of the most influential rookie pitchers to watch in the 2024 season.

Dodgers Sign Both Ohtani and Yamamoto

The Los Angeles Dodgers, renowned for their aggressive investment in top talent, made headlines again with their strategic signings in 2023. Following a stellar 100-win season that unfortunately culminated in a disheartening sweep by the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Divisional Series, the Dodgers returned to the drawing board, determined to bolster their roster for future campaigns.

Leading their high-profile acquisitions was Shohei Ohtani, arguably the best player in Major League Baseball. Ohtani’s signing broke new ground in the MLB financial landscape. The Dodgers secured his extraordinary talents with a monumental 10-year, $700 million contract, setting a new benchmark for player contracts in duration and total value. This deal reflects Ohtani’s unparalleled dual-role capabilities as both a pitcher and a hitter and underscores the Dodgers’ commitment to assembling a championship-caliber team.

Hot on the heels of this groundbreaking deal, the Dodgers didn’t rest on their laurels. They continued their pursuit of excellence by signing Yoshinobu Yamamoto, another stellar talent from Japan, known for his precision and skill on the mound. Yamamoto’s agreement with the Dodgers—a 12-year contract valued at $325 million—represents one of the most significant commitments ever made to a rookie pitcher in MLB history. This deal highlights the Dodgers’ strategy of investing in long-term potential, banking on Yamamoto’s continued development and impact as a cornerstone of their pitching rotation.

Together, these signings illustrate the Dodgers’ clear intent: to recover from their playoff disappointment and dominate in the forthcoming seasons. With the addition of Ohtani and Yamamoto, the Dodgers have significantly enhanced their lineup, adding depth, versatility, and star power, undoubtedly making them a formidable opponent in the MLB landscape. The organization’s willingness to commit significant financial resources to secure top international talent also sends a powerful message about their aspirations to compete and set a new standard in baseball excellence.

Who Is Yoshinobu Yamamoto?

Born on August 20, 1998, in Bizen, Okayama, the 25-year-old Yamamoto quickly became a Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) phenomenon. He made his debut just three days after his 19th birthday for the Buffaloes of the Pacific League, and in the following years, Yamamoto made five NPB All-Star teams. He was a three-time Japanese Triple Crown winner, along with winning three Pacific League MVPs, all between 2021 and 2023. Yamamoto won the Pacific League ERA championship and strikeout championship four times, ending his career with a 70-29 record. He posted a remarkable 1.82 career ERA with 922 strikeouts, including two no-hitters.

Yamamoto began garnering significant Major League interest in 2022 before winning another league MVP in 2023. He struck out 14 batters in Game 6 of the 2023 Japan Series, a series record, in his final Japanese outing. On November 5th, the same day the Buffaloes would fall in Game 7 of the Japan Series to the Hanshin Tigers, Orix announced Yamamoto would be posted to MLB.

How Did He End Up a Dodger?

Los Angeles has a long history of courting big-money free agents, including some of the best Japanese players in MLB history. Only the Mariners have signed more Japanese players (11) than the Dodgers (10). Los Angeles has garnered 55.1 Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) out of those players, including Hideo Nomo, Kenta Maeda, and Hiroki Kuroda.

Los Angeles’ earlier signing of Shohei Ohtani played a significant role in his decision to sign with the Dodgers, but it was not the only reason. It was reported that the Dodgers got to Yamamoto before other teams made their final offers, making him the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history. After finishing 2023 with the 5th highest payroll in baseball, Los Angeles gave out the most significant contracts in baseball history for a position player and pitcher in the same offseason.

What Is Next for The Dodgers?

For Los Angeles, it is all hands on deck. Despite the slow start, the Dodgers are still in first place and haven’t always been the fastest team out of the gate. It’s World Series or bust for Los Angeles, even more so in 2025. Once Ohtani’s elbow is fully recovered, the Dodgers will have both Yamamoto and Ohtani on the mound every fifth day.