The Miami Marlins relied on Jordan Yamamoto to fill a rotation spot through the second half of the 2019 season.
The Miami Marlins are counting on Jordan Yamamoto to fill one of their five starting rotation spots in 2020. With opening day still a ways off, and we’re not sure exactly how far off, Yamamoto seems to have the inside track to the number four spot.
Caleb Smith, Sandy Alcantara, and Pablo Lopez seem to be the Marlins choice for the top three rotational starters. Some combination of Nick Neidert, Robert Dugger, Jose Urena, Elieser Hernandez, and Yamamoto will fill the final two spots.
Yamamoto is a six-foot, 185 lb. right-handed hitting and throwing pitcher. Born on May 11th, 1996, the native of Pearl City, HI was chosen in the 12th round of the 2014 MLB Amateur Entry Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, with the 356th overall selection out of Hawaii HS.
Over the following three seasons, Yamamoto rose steadily through the Brewers system. He ranked eighth in the Rookie-level Pioneer League with 8.56 strikeouts per nine innings while with the Helena Brewers in 2015. In 2016, he pushed that mark to 10.18 K/9 up at the Single-A level with he Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in the Midwest League, to rank 6th in the circuit and second overall with 152 whiffs in total. In 2017, he led the High-A Carolina League with a 2.51 ERA while pitching for the Carolina Mudcats.
Prior to spring training in 2018, the Brewers sent Yamamoto, along with rated prospects Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, and Isan Diaz to the Miami Marlins for Christian Yelich. Although Yamamoto started the season on the injured list, he joined the High-A Jupiter Hammmerheads in the Florida State League. In seven starts, he was 4-1 with a 1.55 ERA, 47 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings, and a 0.84 ERA. After a mid-season promotion to the Double-A level with the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp in the Southern League, he started three games and struck out 23 in 17 innings.
In 2019, Yamamoto started another dozen games for the Shrimp, and went 3-5 with a 3.58 ERA and 64 whiffs in 65 1/3 innings. He joined the Miami Marlins in June and joined their rotation straightaway. In each of his first two starts, both against the St. Louis Cardinals, he pitched seven shutout innings, allowing a total of five hits, four walks, and a dozen strikeouts.
Yamamoto didn’t lose a start until his sixth, and didn’t give up more than four hits in any of his first eight. By the end of the campaign, he had 15 starts in the can, with a 4-5 record and a 4.46 ERA, a rotation-best 1.144 WHIP, and a 95 ERA+. He also had 82 whiffs in 78 2/3 innings.
According to Baseball Savant, Yamamoto has six pitches in his arsenal, but throws his 93 MPH four-seam fastball a total of 49 percent of the time. His 78 MPH slider, which he throws around 15 percent of the time, has a 50.6 inch vertical drop and 15.0 inches of horizontal movement, both figures well above major league average. This resulted in a robust 36.3 percent swing-and-miss rate on the offering, and a staggeringly low .328 xOPS.
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Seriously, though. That thing is just sick. But Yamamoto can’t just throw the slider all the time, unfortunately.
Spring training would see Yamamoto strike out seven in eight innings, and allow three earned runs on nine hits and zero walks. Baseball reference projects Yamamoto to throw 99 innings in 2020, and rack up a 1.222 WHIP and 105 strikeouts.
The season will probably start sometime in mid-to-late May, and Yamamoto should be sitting pretty in the Miami Marlins rotation when that happens.
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