Braves 2021 Player Review: Huascar Ynoa

Following the recent posts about Kyle Wright and Kyle Muller, I present to you another pitcher close to getting to the wrong side of the prospect age curve that’s had sporadic but encouraging big league success: Huascar Ynoa.

Ynoa was signed by Minnesota out of the Dominican and spent almost 3 years in their minor league system. His brother was also a major league pitcher, Michael Ynoa. Michael had a couple of seasons with the White Sox and was out of the league by age 25, ne’er to return. Huascar was traded to Atlanta at the 2017 trade deadline for Jaime Garcia in a one-for-one swap. Ynoa symbolizes the last of the trade deadline deals in Atlanta’s rebuild phase. Back in those old days, we traded a spare piece for a prospect. Now we trade a prospect for a spare piece. So it’s important for guys like Ynoa to work out for this run to continue.

Huascar has some encouraging trends and had a nice 2021 season that would have probably led to a full-time spot in the rotation had he not got himself injured. He started the year red-hot: through May 9th, he had a 2.23 ERA and 3.67 FIP in 8 games, 7 starts across 40.1 IP. He was striking out a batter an inning and keeping the walks down (9 in those 40.1 IP). But after a rough start next time out against Milwaukee, Huascar decided it was the dugout wall’s fault, landing a strong punch but, at the same time, a devastating blow to his season. He broke his pitching hand, landing him on the shelf for 3 months. When he returned, he was not the same: 5.05 ERA, 4.08 FIP, still more strike outs than innings pitched, but the walk and home run rates climbed.

So, what do you make of all of that? He was a 23 year old kid that made a mistake. If you split the difference between his first half and second half, you have a decent 5th starter, at minimum. If he’s still the guy pre-injury, then he’s a potential middle-of-the-rotation starter. Besides the fluke injury, he did stay healthy and was on pace for 30 starts. That’s encouraging.

His growth from his cup of coffee in 2019 to 2021 could be related to a pitch mix change. In limited sample, Huascar threw his 4-seamer 60% of the time in 2019 compared to throwing his slider only 34% of the time. By 2021, those numbers flipped: he now throws his slider 48% of the time and his 4-seamer 40% of the time. So he’s made a clear adjustment by leading with his slider, and it’s produced better results.

I expect Ynoa to continue to develop, and if he can keep his hands off the dugout wall, I expect him to command a rotation spot next year. Take a deep breath, Huascar.

50 thoughts on “Braves 2021 Player Review: Huascar Ynoa”

  1. Great line, my boy:

    “Back in those old days, we traded a spare piece for a prospect. Now we trade a prospect for a spare piece.”

  2. I think Huascar has a real future now because of the pitch mix that Rob suggested. For me, the next step for Huascar is to further develop the change up, throw it more, and get a little more MPH separation out of it and his slider. I’d love to see his change come in in the upper-70s, his slider in the upper-80s, and that FB in the mid-90s. If tunneled well, that would be a devastating trio of pitches.

  3. Great job, Rob. Perhaps someone can be designated to station himself between Ynoa and the dugout wall. I agree with Ryan that Huascar just might turn out to be really good.

    As noted @4, Ynoa-tani’s bat was also worth a lot last year. Perhaps Huascar, like Shohei, can DH when he’s not pitching.

    Just kidding. Despite the great results he achieved at the plate, both his history and the eyeball test suggest that his hitting stats were a fluke in an extremely small sample size. Ohtani he ain’t; he’s not even in the ballpark with Fried as a hitter.

  4. I don’t know how much we should read into this, but the MLB and MLBPA meeting has now been going on for nearly an hour and a half. That seems promising.

  5. I propose an addendum to the Furcal Rule: Assume no movement on CBA until the transaction freeze is lifted.

    …I’m not quite sure how I’d react if the first thing to happen after a CBA being agreed to was Freddie signing with another team. That would take the wind out of the sails pretty quickly.

  6. @7 Alex Wood was making a joke on Twitter about Freddie signing with a “NL West” team.

    So now I hate Alex Wood.

    Thank you for the kind words, Tfloyd.

  7. I can accept that, along with the news that that the new CBA puts us back in the NL West. Or how about the Central? We haven’t been there yet.

  8. @6

    Ooh…an hour and a half! Much longer and they’ll have to think about breaking out the cots and the breakfast menus!

  9. My concern is that you have a little bit of a media machine thing going on right now. Each bite-sized delay is just another news story, and it’s meant to just keep you on the hook. “Spring Training will be delayed if no deal is reached. Tune in next week!” “Regular season will be delayed if no deal is reached. Stay tuned!” “A 150 game season is now in jeopardy.” Over and over. And I learned from 2020 that we would go past all these delays making it seem like the conclusion was nigh, and it never was until the season was gutted. Tell me why that won’t happen now? After 2020, I don’t find any of these updates useful. Wake me up when they play ball because the “will they or won’t they? Tune in!” routine has already gotten old, and we may not be close at all.

  10. @4, @5 – Remember that for a while Ynoa was ahead of Freeman on the all-time Braves grand slam list. He also had more HR and RBI in 32 PA than Kevan Smith, Alex Jackson, Jonathan Lucroy, and Jeff Mathis did combined in 147 PA. SSS of course, and with the DH coming we’ll never get to see him pinch-hit.

  11. @14, 15 I am not sure what to make of any of this anymore. I understand that he will consider other offers but I am not sure how much AA really wants to back up the truck for him and sell out the farm to keep him. Also, how much does Freddie really want to be out west? I am hoping that since baseball news is slow is why people are force feeding these stories in the media and AA has is all under control.

  12. I think the Braves would be fine without Freddie. There, I said it. Finding a productive 1B is so much easier than finding a productive CFer and/or SS. If the Braves miss out at 1B on the big market, there are .850ish OPS guys that can be had for $10MM/year. From there, use trade chips to address CF, grab Kyle Schwarber, and let it ride.

  13. Ah, yes, that super-easy task of finding useful first basemen, something that the Braves have never ever struggled with. Maybe we can talk Adam LaRoche or Troy Glaus out of retirement. Hell, since we apparently don’t care about character anymore, I’m sure Robert Fick is willing to pick up the phone.

    (Kyle Schwarber has 75 defensive innings at first base, just as a note. Also, he’s had one season in his career where his offensive value overcame his defensive deficiencies, which is why he was non-tendered last offseason.)

    The Braves’ options for first base in 2022 are 1) Freddie Freeman, 2) Matt Olson, and 3) Shrug Emoji. Hopefully they can get one of the top two choices!

  14. @20 although if Shrug Emoji could work with our coaching staff, I think the potential is limitless.

  15. Shrug Emoji is in the best shape of his life, and has been silencing his critics. If it weren’t for the flu-like symptoms, he’d have signed a monster contract already.

  16. How the Braves fill the hole will determine how I feel about it. Honestly, the options don’t excite me too much, and I’m not too inclined to take a trip down to Truist and drop $1000+ of my own money to see the champions after they pocketed a pile of cash last fall and then lowballed the franchise icon who produced surplus value over his first contract. I don’t think the issue is AA but rather LM and Terry McGuirk.

  17. Historians on here will have to inform as to whether a recent WS champ has ever made such a significant and un-sentimental decision immediately afterward.

    It feels like uncharted territory to me. But perhaps that’s just severe recency bias; all I can think about rn are the Nats’ post-WS roster mistakes.

    I am trying to imagine a world in which we avoid their fate. Obviously, our team control situation was different than theirs to begin with.

    It is very hard, exceedingly hard to remain rational.

  18. Shrug Emoji has been working on the hole in his swing all off season. The delayed spring training has allowed him more time to work with hitting guru O’Dash Semicolon. Also, remember in three games at AAAA Shrug Emoji had a +4.54 VOLTRON rating. Freeman never had more than a +4.22256 at any level.

  19. In 1964, the Yankees fired Yogi Berra as manager after losing the 7th game of the World Series. There are clearly some differences: (a) he was a manager; (b) they lost; (c) they’re the Yankees.

    But the 1997 Marlins are probably the best case: “The Series ended on October 26. On November 11, Alou was traded out of town, leading a parade that ultimately included closer Robb Nen, Jeff Conine, Devon White, Charles Johnson, Gary Sheffield, Brown, Leiter, Bonilla, and more. The deletions left the team with one of the worst pitching staffs of all time.”

  20. Ah, the 1997 Marlins. They almost shouldn’t count in this exercise, as no team will ever come close to replicating what they did in ’97.

  21. It’s hard to remember the cavalcade of meh that followed the Big cat’s departure in 2000. A real who’s who of who cares: failed experiments, bad trades, AARP members, ‘roid heads, and Rico Brogna. Even in the good years (2001-2005, 2010), first base seemed an afterthought. I don’t want to go back to those years.

  22. Exciting breaking news from the world of Medicine this morning with the announcement of the first ever successful transplant of a pig’s heart into a human body. Que pasa? For baseball, naturally, there are obvious ramifications, it’s important we are not left behind in the rush to revive tired arms, hollowed legs and a general je ne sais pas quoi, what the hell is going on? Who needs most where?


  23. I think some people have gone through all of the stages of grief in a matter of a couple of days based on message boards conversations about Freddie Freeman going elsewhere when there’s been absolutely no news about him whatsoever. That’s an interesting phenomenon, but more broadly, I understand that baseball is super boring right now because of the lockout, so it spurs discussions that are purely hypothetical in nature to fill a vacuum.

    And baseball’s now done this twice in the last three years. They created a black hole in 2020 and they’re doing it now. They are going to need to have labor peace for another 25 years to make people forget that they squabbled over money and had work stoppages 2 of the last 3 years. They could have had a MUCH bigger 2020 season too if they weren’t fighting over money then too.

  24. I can’t link to the Buster Olney piece behind the paywall, but I can link to stories parroting it. Anything can happen, but it reads to me like the team using sources to telegraph for fans that they’re moving on, and not just rumor-mongering. You certainly don’t see AA rebutting what’s out there. He’s had a whole day.

    @28,29: Feel free to add “and also stay competitive” to @25.

  25. #25
    Dunno how unsentimental these might be considered, but…

    Off the top of my head, Albert Pujols comes to mind. He left the ’11 Cards for free agency.

    Not on the same level, really, but Hideki Matsui (’09 Yanks WS MVP) & Pedro Martinez (’04 Sawx) also were gone soon after the WS.

    That ’64 managerial situation was a weird one. Berra’s replacement was being sought during the season & his post-WS replacement turned out to be Johnny Keane, the WS-winning manager, whose Cardinals team had a miracle finish.

  26. @33

    You may very well be right in terms of the genesis of the story, but I don’t think I’d take AA not saying anything as any kind of sign. I’m pretty sure he’s not allowed to officially comment on anything remotely player-related right now.

  27. Yeah, AA couldn’t comment whether it was true or not. He’s not supposed to be negotiating with anyone right now, be that Freddie Freeman, the Oakland A’s, or Dan Vogelbach.

  28. Totally. Also, AA has basically never given any indication of what his posture is on a particular personnel decision. Ironclad policy. He probably believes that literally any such information would be definitionally counterproductive with respect to the market — if he expresses any desire whatsoever, the price goes up.

    I still think the odds are over 50% they bring back Freddie. But we are in an absolute information black hole.

  29. @37, don’t forget that the black hole at first base directly necessitated the trade for Casey Kotchman’s counterpart — Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Beau Jones for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay. Trading away three All-Stars for a rental.

    But the worst — and I ain’t brooking any dissent on this particular point — were Ken Caminiti and Bobby Bonilla.

  30. #33
    All 3 of those teams — ’12 StL, ’10 NYY & ’05 Bos — made the post-season the year after losing those stars.

    FWIW, all 3 teams that received the stars — ’12 LAA, ’10 LAA & ’06 NYM — failed to make the post-season, despite good seasons from Pujols, Matsui & Martinez.

    Sadly, at that point in his career, Caminiti had real problems beyond the ballpark. But, yeah, at 1B he made Ryan Klesko look like Keith Hernandez.

  31. I do think its kind of funny that it seems that the Braves agree(d) with my thoughts all along that resigning a 33 year old at a non-premium position to a boat load of money and a boat load of years to be a bad idea regardless of the PR involved.

    And I’ve long been on record that I’m unusual in that I VERY rarely form emotional attachment to individual players and it VERY rarely bothers me in the least when one leaves.

    Honestly, after winning the title, everything after that is gravy. Whether FF leaves or stays, they will always say that the Braves won the 2021 title.

  32. I mean, it’s not hard, if AA wanted, he could bat down this rumor through a source, same way as the rumor got out there. “It could all be misdirection” is the thing to cling to, I guess.

    Anyway, I don’t want to get invested in “we’re definitely not resigning Freddie” as something I want to argue for online. I can’t think straight. I exist in a permanent psychedelic state of the Atlanta Braves having won the World Series. It’s a hell of a drug.

  33. Again, though — easy to say “non-premium position,” but what are our alternatives here? Matt Olson, okay — he’s about as good as Freddie, and younger. But he’ll cost a hefty prospect price (and AA has historically been unwilling to pay those), and he’s a free agent after two seasons, so then you’re back where you were. After that the next realistic option is the rotting corpse of would-be crypto salesman Anthony Rizzo, who has been in decline for years and whose only advantage on Freddie is price. Then you’re looking at Quad-A guys who could maybe turn in a decent season if deployed properly, or moving Riley to first and trying to find a third baseman.

    It feels like people think there are a boatload of minor-league sluggers who could be had for a song and could give you an .850 OPS and 30 homers. But there aren’t. Mitch Moreland has had an eleven-year career as a basically average hitter.

  34. @44 That made me laugh. Heh, I might even favour that option over the others!

    I forgot about Pujols. I can’t remember what the difference was in terms of contract offers between St. Louis and LAA, but St. Louis were smart in the end. It’s just with Freeman, the differences seem so slight that you feel they should be able to work out an agreement. Anyway, we’ll all find out soon enough.

  35. MLB/MLBPA don’t seem to behave like there’s any urgency. Unserious counterproposals from both sides, rolling in at lunch time for meetings, peacing out by rush hour, Manfred saying the S&P 500 has a better ROI than owning an MLB team, Max Scherzer eating Doritos in the parking lot, and on and on. Yet, MLB says Feb. 28 is a hard deadline to not miss any games and for players to get 100% of salary. So why aren’t there near 24/7 negotiations at this point? The leadership structure of this sport could use serious a makeover.

  36. The secret is that MLB kind of doesn’t care about missing games. Their priority is not maximizing games played. They’d cheerfully start the season in August if it meant long-term suppression of player salaries. MLB only cares about not missing games to the extent it can be used as a PR cudgel against the union.

  37. Maybe this is old news to all you hardcore followers or native Atlantans, but I just now learned that Andruw Jones’ son (Druw Jones) is a big time prospect now! It was a headline on ESPN about top prospects. So I YouTube’d him and found a cool video on him. Check it out if you want:

    Comment on current crisis- just pay him the extra year. Please!!

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