Yesterday, the Braves traded Jaime Garcia to the Twins – along with Anthony Recker and a bag of money – and acquired Huascar Ynoa. Stephen Tolbert did a tremendous job going over the trade. Today’s focus is on Ynoa, though. Here is a scouting report on the young pitcher.
Player: Huascar Ynoa
Date of Scouting Report: 7/25/17 by Tommy Poe
How Acquired: Trade, 7/24/17
Salary: Minor League Minimum
Years Before Free Agency: 6
Years Before Arbitration (If applicable): 3
Brief Bio: Ynoa was a top pitching prospect during the 2014 J2 Class. Signed for $800,000 by the Twins, Ynoa ranked 17th on the international prospects MLB.com list while ranking 14th on Baseball America’s Top 30 list. A product of the Dominican Republic, Ynoa was lauded for his frontline starter potential and some sources felt he was the best pitching prospect in the class – better than Christopher Acosta (Red Sox), Anderson Espinoza (also Red Sox), Juan Meza (Blue Jays), and Franklin Perez (Astros). Interestingly, the Braves’ top signing that year, Juan Yepez, missed the MLB Top 30, but now the Braves have two members from that class in Ynoa (#17) and catcher Ricardo Rodriguez (#30).
Ynoa made his debut the following summer in the Dominican Summer League. Just 17 years-old, Ynoa was solid over 14 starts with 19% strikeout rate. He did walk 12%, which lowered his FIP to 3.84, but all-in-all, it was a good debut season for the teenager still learning how to pitch. He headed to the Gulf Coast League the following season and improved his numbers a good deal with a 24% strikeout rate and 6% walk rate. Like the previous season, he allowed just one homer but threw seven fewer wild pitches in 5.2 fewer innings.
This season, Ynoa came out the gate and struck out seven Danville Braves in his season debut, which resulted in a loss. He allowed four earned runs combined over four of his first five starts, but his stinkers were especially bad (5 walks, 5 ER over 2 innings on 7/10, 6 ER on 7/23). His numbers in those games especially have put a significant hurting on his season line.
Ynoa is listed at 6’3″ and 175 pounds, which is interesting because he was 6’2″ and 190 lbs. when he signed. I’ve also seen some sources list him at 220 lbs., which is a bit more believable. He has a great pitcher’s frame and has yet to spend any time on the DL.
At the time of the trade, Ynoa was ranked #22 by MLB Pipeline in a Twins system that was ranked about middle-of-the-pack in terms of organizational talent. John Sickels ranked Ynoa #14th before the season and spoke highly about Ynoa’s curveball. He also praised Ynoa’s improving mechanics and command. Recently, Twins Daily left him out of their Midseason Top 15.
Offensive Observations and Grades: N/A
Pitching Observations and Grades: Ynoa starts with his hands at his stomach when pitching from the wind-up. He’ll bring the glove up to about neck-high with a leg kick that’s not too pronounced. Early on, it looked like his release point was a high 3/4’s, but that looks to have dropped to a regular 3/4’s release point. His motion to the plate is very fluid and he’s quick to the plate – almost too quick. His mechanics can sometimes come out of whack as he tries to get through his motion – especially with runners on base. He might be better served by incorporating a pause or something to force him to push his weight back to allow his mechanics to come through better. The plus side is Ynoa won’t waste much time between pitches, which will help keep his infielders on their toes.
When Ynoa signed with the Twins, one thing that stood out about him is that for a young pitcher, he had a robust repertoire of pitches – a fastball, splitter, slider, changeup, and a curve. The Twins have worked to widdle that down to a three-pitch mix – heater, change, and a slider that is more of a slurve.
His fastball has not added much velocity since signing. Instead, he’s still trying to find the stamina to not lose velocity the second time through the order. His heater averages in the low 90’s with a max in the 94-95 mph range, though I have seen him listed at hitting 97 mph. He’s still growing into his body and should find more consistent velocity as he gets older.
Despite still being a teenager, Ynoa has always flashed both good mechanics with his changeup and an excellent feel for the pitch. The velocity drops into the low-to-mid 80’s with similar arm motion and speed as his fastball. When he’s on, he can spot his changeup on the corners and low in the zone, which induces a good deal of weak contact.
His breaking pitch is a slider/slurve that flashes some good sweeping movement with bite. Like any of his deliveries, consistency is a problem. One start, the pitch could be the low 80’s with swing-and-miss stuff. During his next start, it could be in the mid-80’s and flat. I believe much of that is due to his inability to consistently repeat his delivery to this point.
The Twins pushed Ynoa to scrap his splitter and curveball. The Braves preach curveballs so they may have a different plan. Either way, his curve does have some good movement when he can hit his release point with it. It might not be a plus-pitch, but could be a good second-time-thru-the-order pitch to showcase here-and-there.
Grades from a 20-80 Scale…Velocity (50), Movement (45), Control (40)
Potential Grades…Velocity (60), Movement (55), Control (55)
Individual Pitch Grades…Fastball (40), Changeup (45), Slider (35), Curveball (30)
Potential Individual Pitch Grades…Fastball (55), Changeup (60), Slider (55), Curveball (45)
Other Grades…Holding Runners (N/A), Speed to the Plate (60)
Defensive Observations and Grades: No grade is given right now, but Ynoa’s follow-through takes his momentum toward the first base side of the mound, making him vulnerable to bunts toward third. He shows good athletism and a feel for knowing to cover first base.
Future Projection: There is a lot of raw talent here despite being in his third season. The Twins have played it very conservative with him and I doubt the Braves will change that just yet. Ynoa is a project with a high ceiling, but enough questions revolving around him to believe he may never get there. If the slider develops and there is more consistency in his delivery and velocity, Ynoa could profile as a reliever down the line. If his slider develops a lot and his changeup becomes a great pitch – along with increased control and tighter mechanics – Ynoa could be a starter in the major leagues and a potentially really good one at that.
Ynoa is similar in some regards to Ricardo Sanchez. Another young kid who was a big international signing, the Braves liked Sanchez’s pitchability and maturity. Ynoa has that. What he doesn’t have is the results to support the belief that he’s much closer to realizing his potential than he was when he signed. Perhaps with the Braves coaching helping him, that might change. Like our Stephen Tolbert said of him, “he’s a lottery ticket.” Most of the time, lottery tickets don’t win. Some of the time, you might get your investment back or maybe even get a $20 scratcher. It’s hard to find that big winner, but Ynoa once had many scouts believing he could be that big winner. Perhaps he still can be.
Realistically, Ynoa has the most likely projection of being a low-leverage reliever in the majors. But there are reasons to be optimistic here and Ynoa’s profile is worthy of some degree of optimism here.
I want to know your opinion/scouting report. Add it below and if it prompts me to alter mine, I’ll credit you.