On Monday, the Atlanta Braves traded left-hander Jaime Garcia and catcher Anthony Recker to the Minnesota Twins and received in exchange rookie league right-hander Huascar Ynoa in what could be the first in a flurry of trades before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Huascar Ynoa, RHP
2017 Level: Rookie League Elizabethton Twins
6 G, 6 GS
(2017 season to date)
Ynoa was a 2014 international amateur free agent signing by the Minnesota Twins, commanding an $800,000 signing bonus. Ynoa is the brother of former A’s prospect Michael Ynoa, who is currently in the White Sox organization and has pitched in the majors for parts of the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Ynoa has made a step-by-step advancement in his three professional seasons. As a 17-year-old, he had a solid season with the DSL Twins, pitching to a 2.70 ERA in 14 starts, surviving a 4.76 BB/9 by holding opponents to .207/.317/.274 line against him. The next season for the GCL Twins, Ynoa demonstrated improvement nearly across the board in his peripheral metrics, striking out a healthy 9 per 9 innings and slashing his walk rate by over half. This season he has started 6 games for the Elizabethton Twins of the Appalachian League with mixed results, mostly due to two blow-up outings. Yoan did start once against the Danville Braves where he allowed 2 earned runs and struck out a season high 7. I happened to be in attendance for that game, and can report that the two runs came on back-to-back-to-back doubles by the Braves in the first inning, but at least two of those should have been singles with better defensive play. After that, he looked dominant against mostly older competition and may have made an impression on Braves officials in attendance.
Ynoa was named the Twins 2016 Short-Season Pitcher of the Year, and before the season Ynoa ranked #29 in the Twins organization by Baseball America, #22 by Fangraphs, and #14 by John Sickels of MinorLeagueBaseball.com.
Ynoa is listed at 6′-3″, 175 pounds, but is probably a little bit taller and in the 220 pound range at this point. From this solid foundation, Ynoa has a three-pitch arsenal with a fastball that sits in the low ’90s, touching 95 but with good glove-side run. He pairs it with an average curveball that can be above average when he’s able to drop it in for strikes. It’s a curveball that is relatively hard and can run horizonally away from right-handers like a slider. Ynoa also has a change-up that is in development. Ynoa’s main area for improvement is control of all three pitches, both in and out of the strikezone. Like most young pitchers, Ynoa needs to work on repeating his delivery and not overthrowing, which can cause long at-bats and short outings. Ynoa has also been getting killed by left-handed hitters so far this season as he hasn’t been able to strike them out with the curveball and his fastball tends to come back over the plate into most left-handers’ primary hitting zones.
Ynoa may be a top 30 prospect in the Twins organization, but he joins a Braves organization where he likely wouldn’t make it on many top-30 lists due to the overall greater depth of the minor league system. Nevertheless, he’s a high-upside young arm that should compete for an Opening Day assignment with Class A Rome in 2018. The Braves have a recent track record of developing young pitchers with already established curveballs, so this is a player well within the organizational wheelhouse. There’s plenty to like about Ynoa, but make no mistake that he’s very much a lottery ticket.