Four years after he signed for the then-largest international amateur signing bonus ever, Michael Ynoa has made it out of the Arizona League.
The 20-year-old righthander gave up three runs, two of them earned, to Hudson Valley in 2 1/3 innings of work for short-season Vermont. After giving up one run in the first, Ynoa's biggest mistake was a two-run home run by Charlie Valerio in the third that ended his night. He walked two and failed to strike anyone out.
"It's been four years, and it was truly his first time under the lights and in front of a crowd," Vermont manager Rick Magnante said Thursday. "He did nothing you could hang your hat on that wasn't positive. He did it easy and there were no physical glitches."
Magnante said Ynoa's fastball was in the 89-92 mph range, with more "90s than 92s but more 90s than 89s." He threw just 22 strikes out of his 44 pitches, reaching his pitch limit. Just keeping Ynoa healthy enough to reach his pitch limit was a positive to Magnante. The goal is for Ynoa to build arm strength and regain some of the 94 mph velocity he showed before he signed.
"Placing an emphasis other than on his health would be inappropriate," he said. "Let's see what he can do. He can spin a breaking ball. His delivery is still easy, repeatable and athletic, which gives hope for future command and velocity when his strength comes back . . . He's got probably six more starts to see if he can build on what he started last night and get better with every outing."
Ynoa had plenty of rust to knock off. After signing for a then-Latin American record $4.25 million bonus in July 2008, Ynoa missed all of the 2009 season with elbow tendinitis. He pitched just nine innings in 2010 before being shut down to have Tommy John surgery. Ynoa didn't make it back from that surgery in 2011, meaning he entered this year with nine professional innings in three seasons of work. Understandably the A's have been quite cautious with letting him cut loose. Ynoa threw a career-high three innings in his last start in the AZL and is still under strict inning and pitch limits.
Ynoa's development will hit another milestone this winter. Because he was a 2008 signee, the A's will have to decide whether to place him on the 40-man roster or risk exposing him to the Rule 5 draft.
"That point is well-made," Magnante acknowledged. "That's certainly a decision that will be made higher up from me. We're just trying to keep him healthy so we can find out what he can do."
Ynoa got company in the scrutiny department Thursday when the A's promoted 2012 first-round pick Addison Russell and second-rounder Nolan Sanburn to Vermont. Sanburn is making his pro debut while Russell, who signed for $2.65 million, was hitting .415/.488/.717 in 106 at-bats in the AZL.
"He is a player that we would characterize as a toolbox," Magnante said in a team statement. "He runs, throws, hits and has shown power."
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