Yesterday the Chicago White Sox promoted relief prospect Michael Ynoa to the major league roster. His debut went well: two innings of shutout relief work against the Detroit Tigers. It has been a long and difficult path for Ynoa to reach the Show, but reach it he has; here's what to look for.
Ynoa was originally signed by the Oakland Athletics at age 16 back in 2008, earning a bonus of $4,250,000. He was one of the best pitchers to come out of Latin America in many years but he got hurt after pitching just nine innings in rookie ball, requiring Tommy John surgery. He was ineffective on his return in 2012 but began to make strides in 2013 while continuing to fight command troubles and nagging physical issues. He was traded to the White Sox after posting a 5.52 ERA in the California League in 2014.
Although limited to just 38 innings in 2015 he was more effective with his new organization, posting a 2.61 ERA with a 40/16 K/BB in the Carolina League.
From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book
Michael Ynoa, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-7 WT: 210 DOB: September 24, 1991
2013: Grade C; 2014: Grade C+; 2015: Grade C
Remember back when Michael Ynoa was always injured and/or ineffective, but we were supposed to ignore that and talk about his wonderful upside and praise him as a top prospect? Funny thing. Ynoa was actually healthy for most of 2015, and he actually pitched quite well. He still throws hard and still has the plus curveball and he is still just 24. But for all that, no one is talking about him anymore. The White Sox haven’t forgotten though and have given him a spot on the 40-man roster. He could still wind up being an effective middle reliever. While Ynoa is not going to live up to the early hype, a bullpen job would still be a better fate than getting released and ending up as a trivia question. Grade C.
Ynoa has pitched 27.2 innings in Double-A and Triple-A this year, posting a 3.90 ERA with a 24/12 K/BB, not spectacular results but enough for him to get a chance when the Sox needed a bullpen arm.
He seems to have found his niche as a reliever, holding more consistent velocity on his 93-96 MPH fastball. He's got a slider/hard curve in the 80s and will occasionally use a softer curve in the 70s, though in the bullpen he relies mainly on his harder pitches. His command remains inconsistent but there's certainly no issue with his stuff.
It remains to be seen if Ynoa's control or health will ever be reliable enough for him to hold down a job as a closer, but kept within his limits he has a good chance to be a fine middle reliever, perhaps an excellent one.