Yoshinobu Yamamoto Looks Like the Real Deal in Spring Debut

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A day after Shohei Ohtani hit a home run in his Los Angeles Dodgers spring debut, L.A. rolled out their other big off-season acquisition, starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto. It’s not easy to throw two innings of exhibition work and look like you’re worth the $325 million contract you were given, but that is what Yamamoto did.

Facing the defending World Series champion Texas Rangers on Wednesday in the Cactus League, Yamamoto threw 19 pitches, 16 for strikes, and he faced the minimum six batters over the two innings, striking out three.

He struck out one of the American League’s best, Marcus Semien, with a 96-mph fastball. He sat down Nathaniel Lowe on a splitter in the dirt, and also got Leody Taveras swinging at his splitter.

Arizona online sportsbooks are offering spring odds on which pitcher will end the season with the most strikeouts. Spencer Strider of the Atlanta Braves is the heavy favorite at +190. He finished first in baseball last year with 281 strikeouts. He is followed by Kevin Gausman of the Toronto Blue Jays at +900, and Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees at +1200. Based on what we saw in the brief outing by Yamamoto, the +2000 he’s paying looks like a bargain.

You never really know how quickly or smoothly the transition will be from the Japanese league to the Major Leagues. But few Japanese imports have come to the United States with the resume of Yamamoto. He’s only 25, but he won three straight MVP awards, three straight Sawamura Awards (the Japanese equivalent to the Cy Young Award), and he won the pitching Triple Crown in three straight years. 

He’s also won three Golden Glove Awards, and he’s been an NPB All-Star five times. He won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, and he’s thrown two no-hitters.

Good Health Key for Michael Harris Breakout

Braves center fielder Michael Harris II was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2022. But last year, he struggled with injuries and slumps. He was plagued by back and wrist injuries early in the season, and dealt with leg and foot injuries over the rest of the year. He was still good for Atlanta during the regular season, but didn’t take another step forward after his terrific rookie campaign. He was also 0-for-13 in the postseason.

He is healthy now, and already this spring training he has two home runs and a batting average of .375. Baseball online sportsbooks have Harris at +4000 to win the National League MVP – fellow Brave Ronald Acuna Jr. is the favorite – and all signs point to Harris moving up to the next level of stardom.

Georgia Prospect Moving Up Draft Boards

An hour and a half away from Truist Park in Atlanta is the college town of Athens, where the current No. 4 prospect for the 2024 MLB Draft has started the college baseball season right where he left off in 2023.

On Wednesday against Michigan, Charlie Condon hit three home runs – the first Georgia Bulldog to have three home runs in the same game since he did it last season. The first baseman and outfielder was Baseball America’s Freshman of the Year last year, and he led the SEC in slugging percentage.

Through nine games of his sophomore season, he already has seven home runs and is slashing a ridiculous .639/.696/1.417. After Wednesday’s game, he had an NCAA Division I leading 23 base hits.

BetUS.com has the Georgia Bulldogs as +8000 longshots to win the College World Series, with Wake Forest the current favorites at +700.

The Cleveland Guardians have the first pick in the MLB Draft in July, followed by the Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, and Oakland Athletics. The latest draft projections have Condon going to the Rockies with the third overall pick.

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