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The View From Behind the Backstop: Gabriel Ynoa

Gabriel Ynoa started the season as one of the youngest players in the Eastern League. After a bit of a rough time there in 2014, has the young righthander started to make some adjustments?

Chris McShane

Gabriel Ynoa
RHP, Binghamton Mets (AA)
Height, weight: 6'2", 160
Age (2014 season age): 22
Acquired: IFA, 2009
Date(s) seen: 4/24/15 @ New Hampshire Fisher Cats: 4.2 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 2 HR
2015 so far: 3 G, 16.2IP, 21 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 8 BB, 7 K

Profile and mechanics

Ynoa's listed vitals haven't been accurate since he first came stateside, and he's probably closer to 190 pounds nowadays. He's still a bit lanky by starting pitcher standards, but he has filled out some through the torso and legs. His mechanics are very similar to previous looks: A very high leg kick followed by a long, slow stride directly towards the plate that allows his long arm action time to catch up with the rest of his body. The delivery is not high effort and very repeatable, and Ynoa is athletic and flexible enough to repeat it without issue. The long arm path and low three-quarters armslot does give batters, especially left-handers, a long look at the ball. The lower armslot also doesn't give Ynoa a particularly deep release point considering how far he strides.


Reports and some looks towards the end of last season indicated a bit of a velocity bump for Ynoa, but in the admittedly freezing weather in Manchester Friday night, that was not on display. His fastball ranged from 89-93 mph and sat 91-92 for most of the outing. Ynoa's fastball gets good run and sink, but he still has issues changing eye levels with hitters. The armslot and natural sink make it tough for him to really elevate the pitch, and his fastballs up in the zone are flat. Ynoa's control has always outpaced his command, and that was true in this look, as well.

In other words, he is better at throwing strikes generally than he is at throwing good strikes. There was some noticeable improvement from previous looks in locating the fastball to the gloveside (inside to left-handed hitters) in this outing, but overall the command profile was below-average. Ynoa's usually strong control was somewhat absent, too. He struggled to throw strike one with the fastball, and in fastball counts, the pitch got hit hard. The most damning thing for me was Ynoa seemed afraid to throw the pitch later in the start when he was in trouble, working backwards and doubling up with the offspeed stuff to try to get ahead. Without better command or more consistent plus velocity, it's a very average offering. The potential of a good two-seamer with armside run at 92-94 is still in there, but I had hoped to see far more of that kind of offering than I did.

Current Grade: 45 (Fringe-average)

Future Grade: 55 (Solid-average)

Breaking Ball

Ever since I first saw Ynoa in Brooklyn in 2012, it was clear that the slider development was going to be key for any potential major league future. The slider I saw in the low minors was very soft and slurvy, and Ynoa had to slow his arm action and almost guide it to the release point. The pitch has improved some, but it still lacks any sort of consistency. This is probably the area where the cold affected Ynoa the most. I could barely hold a pen to write by the fifth inning, and I was not being asked to snap off a breaking ball, but there were far too many 78-80 mph slurves that didn't have much in the way of depth, and stayed in the zone far too long.

The best sliders I saw from him in New Hampshire were 82-84 mph and had some hard, late tilt to them. Those were the ones that got most of his few swings and misses of the night. Ynoa has played around with a curve the past couple years, and if they are in fact two separate pitches, he should probably scrap the high-70s charlie, but given the overall lack of consistency with the breaking ball(s), it's tough for me to say definitively what was what. I am primarily concerned with the slider here, and with Ynoa's armslot it is always going to be difficult to stay on top of the pitch and get that signature late, two-plane break. As it stands now, there needs to be a lot more refinement here to even keep right-handed hitters honest at this and higher levels

Current Grade: 35 (Well-below average)

Future Grade: 45: (Fringe-average)


The change has always been a weapon for Ynoa throughout his professional career. Although he threw it sparingly in this look, and I imagine it was also adversely affected by the cold, he showed me enough good ones that I am comfortable with it as a major-league-quality offering. Ynoa maintains his arm action on the pitch well, and the armslot helps give the pitch some extra late fade and tail. At 83-84 mph the velocity seperation is there as well. I would like to see him use it more against right-handed batters, as he used it almost exclusively against lefties. This could very well be a developmental directive to work on the breaking ball against same-side batters, but there is something to be said for learning how to make the change work against righties as well, since it is likely to still be his best weapon at the highest level.

Current Grade: 50 (Major-league average)

Future Grade: 55: (Solid-average)

The optimistic projection

50: #4 starter

I can't downgrade Ynoa's Overall Future Potential (OFP) too much without seeing the same fringy stuff in better weather conditions, but realistically you are looking at a guy who projects to have three average offerings and will live and die with how good his mix and command is on a given day. That is more #4 starter than mid-rotation.

The likely outcome

40: Middle reliever

I think Ynoa's two-seamer and change are good enough to make him a major league arm in some capacity, but that is a tough reliever profile. He likely falls somewhere on the Gonzalez Germen -> Alex Torres continuum.

What to look for during the rest of the 2015 season

Double-A is where the performance really starts to matter, and Ynoa will need to miss more bats with his secondaries to stay on track to be a future major league starter.