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Jordan Yamamoto: Marlin on the Rise

Yamamoto was the lone pitcher yielded by the Christian Yelich trade to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Jordan Yamamoto joins the Jupiter Hammerheads for 2018.

Jordan Yamamoto is a 6’, 185 lb. right-handed pitcher from Pearl City, Hawaii. Now just 21-years-old, he was born on May 11th, 1996. He was part of the haul of players that the Marlins collected (also including Lewis Brinson, Isan Diaz, and Monte Harrison) from the Milwaukee Brewers for Christian Yelich. Brinson, Harrison, and Diaz are all ranked in Miami’s top 10 prospects, one, two, and nine respectively, but Yamamoto may prove to be the real steal.

As a native of Hawaii, Yamamoto had more to overcome than most players in the draft. With the nearest major league team just under 2,400 miles away, it was clear that for him to gain any measure of success that he would have to (literally) go a long way.

At first it was hard to be away from family and friends, but I knew it’s where I had to be. Being able to travel the nation is something that I will never forget. It’s always fun experiencing new places and meeting new people.

The Brewers signed Yamamoto out of the draft in 2014, after choosing him in the 12th round out of St. Louis HS. Even though he was 356th off the board, there’s precedent for major league success from that position. Ted Lilly (130-113) played 15 years and collected 27.0 WAR as a pitcher, and Robbie Ray (29-36) has 7.3 in his four seasons.

Yamamoto wasn’t always a dead-lock to continue his minor league career. After going 1-6 with a 7.84 ERA for the rookie-level Helena Brewers in 2015, with a WHIP of 1.95, it was clear he had to find a solution.

From the Helena season, I thought I needed to do more. Over the following couple of seasons, I redefined my mechanics and allowed myself to become the pitcher that I am.

For his part, Yamamoto seems excited to join the Marlins.

James Fisher over at Baseball Prospectus noted about Yamamoto during mid-2016:

The profile is still not prototypical but his glove side command has started to come around. His delivery has been cleaned up a bit, has become more on-line to the plate, and the delayed trunk rotation works for him. The stuff has taken a jump forward along with these improvements in his delivery. The fastball was up to 95 during my last look, and the breaking ball consistently flashed average to slightly above-average. The key for Yamamoto going forward will be the continued refinement of his command and the changeup, which lags behind at present.

Despite the aforementioned ups and downs in Yamamoto’s progress through the minors, one thing that has stayed consistent is his ability to make batters miss. Even in his snakebit 2015 season, he whiffed 59 in 62 innings. Outside of that, he’s gotten 287 to miss in 267 innings. That’s a lifetime K/9 of 9.47. Paired with his rapidly shrinking WHIP over the last three seasons and we may have Pearl City’s first ever native son making his major league debut in the next few years.

Yamamoto is currently slated to join the rotation with the Jupiter Hammerheads, along with Cody Poteet, Jeff Brigham, Robert Dugger, & possibly James Buckelew. Although he’s not currently rated amongst Miami’s “Top 30 Prospects,” he’s got a lot of upside. In 2016, he dropped a 1.20 WHIP and a 3.82 ERA in 134 13 innings. Then in 2017, he improved those already impressive numbers to 1.09 WHIP and a 2.51 ERA in 111 innings.

Yamamoto’s no stranger to ink.

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I would say my rib piece and my forearm are my two favorites only because me and my dad have matching tattoos. My first “big” one is on my ribs, and he has a matching one on his leg.

I told Yamamoto to check out Nick Wittgren’s stuff at spring training, and recommended Major League Tattoos. (If you haven’t already checked it out, read Ely’s feature article about the noted tattoo shop here).

Here’s a pretty good representation of Yamamoto’s “stuff,” striking out his 11th batter in six innings against the Cedar Rapids Kernels for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

...and here’s some footage from behind home plate.

When Yamamoto’s not striking guys out, he retires them mostly by keeping it in the park. He allows three fly balls for every two grounders.

Notice that six of the seven homers that Yamamoto allowed were sliced out to left field. I thought at first that meant he was better versus lefties, but he’s equally effective against both. Righties slashed .222/.284/.326 last season versus him, and lefties slashed pretty much the same thing, at .224/.292/.333. Although he has in the past came out of the pen, it hasn’t been pretty. As a reliever he allows a .304/.400/.478, versus an enviable .213/.271/.309 slashline as a starter. Easy fix, keep him in the rotation.

Yamamoto’s head is in the right place, too. When I asked when he thinks he’d be in Miami, he noted that he would control what he could and not worry about the rest.

I mean it is not up to me when my debut is going to happen but what is up to me is the work I put in and the numbers I work for. I will keep going about my business like I have been doing the last four years. If it is my time, then it is my time.

We’d like to thank Yamamoto for making himself available to us. I know everyone is predicting a 100 loss season, but there are good things to look out for too. This guy is one of them. Thanks for reading, and make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter so you’re always the first to know about Marlins news.