The Baltimore Orioles’ biggest weakness this past season was their starting rotation, however, 24-year-old Gabriel Ynoa offers some promise.
The Baltimore Orioles acquired Ynoa back in February from the New York Mets in exchange for cash. Before joining the Orioles, Ynoa had pitched in just 10 games in the major leagues, with only three starts. During that time in the majors with the Mets, he had a 6.38 ERA, an 8.35 K/9, and a 1.80 WHIP in 18.1 innings pitched.
After coming to the Orioles, Ynoa was given a chance to start more games, though he started off the year in a relief role. He ended last season with a 4.15 ERA, a 6.75 K/9, and a 1.36 WHIP. Those numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, but when you look at his repertoire, you can see some potential.
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Throughout his career, Ynoa’s best skill has been his control. You might not think that looking at his BB/9 numbers, but he maintained that skill all throughout the minor leagues. Once he got up to the majors, he started nibbling too much around the edge of the plate, which resulted in his walks increasing.
That’s not to say that Ynoa is Greg Maddux or something, he still struggles with control on occasion, but he’s shown he can be good with it, and he’s got three solid pitches (two-seam fastball, slider, changeup), which we’ll take a look at here.
Perhaps Ynoa’s best pitch, his two-seam fastball sits around 94-95 MPH, which on its own is nice. But when it’s combined with the sharp bite and movement that it has, it can be deadly.
Like I said earlier, Ynoa does try to nibble sometimes, and when he does, that two-seam fastball breaks just off the plate, as you can see in this pitch to Jacoby Ellsbury:
It’s also the pitch he throws most often, throwing it 55.9% of the time last year. On occasion he’ll use it as his putout pitch, as you can see in the first GIF, but generally he saves that for his slider, which we’ll look at now.
If you were to say that Ynoa’s slider is actually his best pitch, I wouldn’t argue with you. He throws it over 30% of the time and for good reason, it’s a solid pitch. It averages around 85 MPH and has some pretty sharp bite when it’s on.
But like I said before with the fastball, when Ynoa tries to nibble, it breaks off the plate for a ball, as you can see here with this pitch against Aaron Judge:
And, worst case scenario, sometimes Ynoa throws it and it just doesn’t break, which means it lays out there as an 84 MPH fastball, and when you throw that to someone like, say, Josh Bell, well you can guess what happens.
This is more of a split-change than it is a straight changeup, similar to what Kevin Gausman throws. Ynoa doesn’t throw his changeup often, as it’s obviously still a work in progress, but there are some flashes of potential from it.
It typically sits around 85 to 88 MPH, sometimes touching 90, and it has some decent break to it. Even though this pitch to Lucas Duda is a ball, I like the break that Ynoa has on the changeup.
If he can have that sort of break every time he throws it and is able to locate the pitch well, it could turn into quite a good pitch, and would complement his fastball well. But like I said, it’s a work in progress, and sometimes it just doesn’t break and lays out there, like this pitch to Gregory Polanco:
While Ynoa wasn’t exactly a star prospect for the Baltimore Orioles, nor was his acquisition from the Mets a much-talked-about move, he’s got some potential. He’s still just 24-years-old and got to have 34.2 innings in the major leagues, including four starts, last year.
If Ynoa keeps working on his pitches, gets back the excellent control that he showed off in the minor leagues, and maybe even adds another pitch to his repertoire (I’d love to see a good curveball), he could be a solid mainstay in the Orioles’ rotation, something the team desperately needs.