The Oryx Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) have officially announced that they have approved the Major League Baseball posting process for ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, 25, shortly after finishing runner-up in the Japan Series.
“The Orix announced that it has approved Yamamoto’s transfer to the Major Leagues,” Japanese media outlets such as Full Count reported on the evening of the 5th, “Yamamoto will go through the process in accordance with the player contract agreement between the Major League Baseball office and the NPB organization.”굿모닝토토
The Orix fell to the Hanshin Tigers 1-7 in Game 7 of the best-of-seven Japan Series (JS-7) of the 2023 Nippon Professional Baseball postseason at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka, Japan, on Friday. They fell to 3-4 in the series, ending their bid for a second straight Japan Series title.
The Oryx bounced back in Game 6 from a 2-3 series deficit behind ace Yamamoto. Yamamoto took the mound and pitched a monster game, allowing just one run on nine hits, one home run, and one walk while striking out 14 in a 5-1 victory.
However, the Oryx handed the championship to Hanshin in Game 7. Hanshin used a batting explosion to defeat the Oryx 7-1 and clinch their first Nippon Series title in 38 years, since 1985.
Born in 1998, Yamamoto made his debut in an Orix uniform in 2017 and has since become one of the best pitchers in the game, not only for the team but for Nippon Professional Baseball as a whole. After collecting 30 holds in 2018, his second year in the organization, Yamamoto settled into a starting role in 2019, posting an impressive 8-6 record with a 1.95 ERA in 20 games. In 2021, he dominated Nippon Professional Baseball with an 18-5 record and 1.39 ERA in 26 games.
In 2022, he went 15-5 with a 1.68 ERA in 26 games and a 1.21 ERA in 23 games this season, leading the Orix to the top of the Nippon Series. It was the first time the Orix had won the Japan Series in 26 years, since 1996.
For the third consecutive year, Yamamoto won the Sawamura Award, which is given to the best pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball from 2021 to this year. He is only the second pitcher in history to win the Sawamura Award three years in a row and the first in 65 years since Masaichi Kaneda.
Oryx helped Yamamoto put the pain of finishing runner-up behind him and fueled his “dream”. Even before the Japan Series, it was clear that Yamamoto would be playing in the Major Leagues after the 2023 season.
MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, recently released its top 25 free agent rankings for the offseason, and Yamamoto was ranked second behind Live Ball Era icon Shohei Ohtani (29). South Korea’s Lee Jung-hoo (25, Kiwoom Heroes), who is the same age as Yamamoto (born in 1998) and was the first to announce his intentions to play in the major leagues, was ranked 13th.
Yamamoto is no stranger to Korean baseball fans. In the 2019 WBSC Premier12 Final, he made a strong impression when he took the mound in the top of the eighth inning with Korea trailing 3-4 and struck out a trio of Korean hitters, including Lee Jung-hoo, Kim Ha-seong (28-San Diego Padres), and Kim Jae-hwan (35-Dusan Bears). In particular, he made a splash by striking out Lee Jung-hoo, who had been showing off his peak hitting power throughout the tournament.
He started against South Korea in the semifinals of the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games. In 5⅓ innings, he allowed two runs on five hits and one walk while striking out nine in Japan’s 5-2 victory. However, Lee got the better of Yamamoto in the return matchup after two years, hitting a two-run double off the fence in the top of the first inning.
Yamamoto played a key role in Japan’s victory at the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March this year, going 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two games (one start) and 7⅓ innings pitched. A 2019 Premier12 title and a gold medal at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics rounded out his international career.
Jim Bowden, a former Major League Baseball general manager and columnist, estimated Yamamoto’s expected salary at $211 million (about 28.66 billion won) over seven years, according to US sports media outlet The Athletic.
Even considering the skyrocketing prices of S-level players in the Major League Baseball free agency market, it is clear that Yamamoto is highly valued in the United States.