With Mike Soroka having had a successful surgery on Friday to repair a torn Achilles tendon in his right leg, the 23-year-old righty will now enter into what will be a long recovery process. However the Braves have called on its first replacement starter, as during Saturday night’s Braves/Phil’s game our own Chase Irle relayed that 22-year-old righty Huascar Ynoa will take the mound for Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader versus the Phillies (Thursday’s make-up game). First pitch is slated for 1:05 p.m. (ET).
But given it has been quite a while since we’ve seen Ynoa in action as a Brave (July 16 of last season was his last MLB appearance, to be exact), perhaps now may be a good time to review just what the Dominican pitcher brings to the table this weekend.
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) July 17, 2019
Here at SportsTalkATL we have Ynoa ranked 12th on the site’s 2020 Top 30 list, which is rather consistent with most places on the internet (FanGraphs: 16th / MLB.com: 10th / Talking Chop: 11th). Although it’s fair to say that perhaps Ynoa hasn’t quite lived up to his projection ever since coming over from the Twins back in July of 2017, as part of the Jaime Garcia trade.
Starting with his first full-season as a member of the Braves’ organization in 2018 (though excluding his 18.00 ERA in two big league appearances in 2019), Ynoa has posted a 4.82 ERA in 213.2 innings thus far — not quite the work of a top-tier prospect. And his most-recent performance hasn’t produced much optimism, either, considering Ynoa took a step back last season.
The 6’3″, 175 lb., righty started the ’19 campaign in High-A Florida, though after three strong starts there (3.27 ERA) he was moved up to Double-A Mississippi. With the M-Braves, Ynoa was used solely as a reliever, and despite doing a better job with walks, his run-prevention took a hit. In six appearances out of the bullpen (13 IP), Ynoa allowed a 5.27 ERA and went from 13.09 K/9 while in Florida to 9.88 in Mississippi (still above-average, though).
Regardless of his so-so performance in High-A and Double-A, by mid-May Ynoa (along with Patrick Weigel) was promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett, where he logged his final 72.2 innings in 2019. At the highest level of the minors, the Braves started utilizing Ynoa as a starter again, and overall his results were a mixed bag. In 14 starts and 3 relief appearances with Gwinnett, the Dominican posted a 5.33 ERA to go along with 9.78 K/9 and 4.21 BB/9. With the new baseball also in Triple-A last season, Ynoa struggled with home runs and wound up allowing 14 during that span (a HR/9 rate of 1.73).
Ynoa’s aforementioned MLB debut came last season, when he faced the Phillies for two innings in a 15-1 victory. Ynoa’s first appearance was a success as he struck out two and allowed just one hit; however, a month later his time in the majors was tainted when he surrendered six runs from five hits in just one inning of work against the Brewers (hence the 18.00 ERA).
Here’s Christian Yelich’s grand slam off Ynoa…
— Strand Sport Stats (@StrandStats) July 17, 2019
Although, all-in-all, Ynoa’s 2019 was nothing to be ashamed of, for making it to The Show should never be taken lightly. However, I’m sure it would’ve been nice for him to have been given a chance to right the ship after that poor game in Milwaukee.
The scouting report
During his incredibly small sample of innings last season, Ynoa leaned heavily on his four-seam fastball (60.6%), while also utilizing a slider (34.8%) and changeup (4.5%). That’s about what we’ll see in 2020 as well, though Ynoa’s slider has often been labeled as a curve. Regardless of the pitch-type, he does a nice job of locating his breaking ball in the bottom of the inside-corner against lefty hitters, though Ynoa hasn’t quite learned how to consistently harness his fastball.
As far as velocity, Ynoa is probably one of the Braves’ hardest throwing starters, oftentimes sitting around 96-97 mph with his fastball. His slider averages 86-87 mph and Ynoa’s offspeed hangs around the low-90s, though the change is usually used just to keep batters honest.
Overall, Ynoa is a pretty big guy and he uses his size on the mound with a long follow through and big leg kick, coming unwound with a violent delivery. Whether or not he has improved his ability to locate his fastball is yet to be seen, but as he matures it seems likely his command would tighten up a bit. In fact, Ynoa could probably get away with throttling down his heater a bit in order to add a little more accuracy.
Either way, given both games are just 7 innings today, the Braves really just need Ynoa to survive one time through the Phillies’ lineup. If he’s able to pitch 5 innings it’ll certainly be a bonus. Really this is a nice opportunity for Ynoa to get some much needed experience in the majors, as well as a chance for the Braves to see what he has been working on over the last year. Both reasons are compelling enough to justify him getting the start in Game 1 today.