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Observations of Mariners LHP Ryan Yarbrough

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Ryan Yarbrough has spent much of this season with High-A Bakersfield in the California League. However, he suffered a groin injury back in June and is currently rehabbing with the Clinton Lumber Kings in the Midwest League. Last Wednesday I was able to attend his rehab start in West Michigan. With Bakersfield this year he has made 11 starts and has a 4.23 ERA with a 4.07 FIP in 55 1/3 innings.

Mariners left hander Ryan Yarbrough
Mariners left hander Ryan Yarbrough
Van Worth Photography

Ryan Yarbrough was drafted by Seattle in the fourth round of the 2014 draft out of Old Dominion. Yarbrough signed as a senior, so Seattle was able to save a little money with this pick after spending big on high school picks Alex Jackson and Gareth Morgan earlier in the draft. With very little leverage, the southpaw put his name on the dotted line and became a member of the Mariners organization.

After he was drafted, Yarbrough spent most of 2014 with Everrett in the Northwest League (short season). He appeared in 12 games (10 starts) and had a very impressive 1.40 ERA and a 1.88 FIP. He is listed at 6’5", 205 and it is a very tall, thin frame. His delivery has very good deception and he throws from a ¾ arm slot. He showed a good ability to repeat his delivery. Reports out of Everett last year had Yarbrough up to 95 with his fastball after only ever touching 92 in his college career.

Last Wednesday (August 5th) he sat 87-90 touching 91 with some run on his fastball. However, the velocity he was working with last Wednesday was the same velocity he was at pre-injury with Bakersfield this year. With Bakersfield this year he has made 11 starts and has a 4.23 ERA with a 4.07 FIP in 55 1/3 innings.

Taking into account his drop in velocity, his fastball looks like it will be an average major league offering. Yarbrough also throws a change-up and a curveball. His change-up sat in the 79-82 range in the outing I saw. This pitch has very good movement and features good fade. There is also good deception on this pitch because of his ability to maintain arm speed and the velocity difference between this and the fastball. To me the change-up looks like his best pitch right now and it is a legitimate plus pitch.

Yarbrough’s other off-speed pitch is a curveball. The curveball sat in the 76-77 range all night. When he throws it right there is very good movement on it. However, he was inconsistent with the movement and the pitch sometimes takes a slurvy shape. With improved consistency the curveball could become an average major league pitch.

As one would expect from a college senior drafted in the first couple rounds of the draft, Yarbrough shows very good polish. He showed good command and control on all of his pitches. As a result of this, many think he should move fairly quickly through the Mariners system.

With a 3-pitch mix that includes a potentially average fastball and curveball, a plus change-up and very good control, there is back end of the rotation potential here (especially if he is able to regain some of the velocity he showed last year with Everrett). However, many are projecting him to the bullpen long-term. While he hasn't had any arm issues, groin problems have been known to be finicky and easily aggravated. Either way, Yarbrough has shown enough to warrant at a look in Seattle, health permitting.