Well for starters, we know that Michael Ynoa is now one of the newest members of the 40-man roster. Beyond that he is a living, breathing question mark. As we peek into the past for answers concerning the future, lets take a refresher course on the Dominican man of mystery.
Using similar tactics that would come into play years later with the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes, Billy Beane and his scouting department emerged from the shadows to trump rival bidders such as the Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers, and the free spending New York Yankees. Truly embracing the role of the mystery team, Beane impressed Ynoa and his family by a making a personal connection with a series of face to face meetings with the 16-year old right hander. After a prior handshake agreement with the Yankees fell through due to Ynoa’s agent Adam Katz and his attempt to renegotiate, Beane jumped at a second chance to make a deal with Ynoa and his representatives. Despite being outbid by the 5 million dollar offers of Texas and Cincinnati, Ynoa agreed to sign with Oakland for 4.25 million on July 2nd, 2008. The moment Ynoa signed on the dotted line, he became the recipient of the largest bonus ever awarded to an amateur player in Oakland Athletics history. The amount of 3.25 million paid to Mark Mulder nearly a decade earlier, had the been the previous high water mark before the Ynoa signing. Furthermore, the signing bonus was largest given to a non-Cuban Latin American since the Yankees shelled out 2.44 million for the rights to Wily Mo Pena in the summer of 1999. The deal represented an increased presence for Oakland in the international market, and with signing of Ynoa it was a significant splash that rippled throughout professional baseball.
At the time of his signing, very few people outside of the Dominican had watched Ynoa pitch in person with the exception of front office personnel and professional scouts. Enrolled at a baseball academy, he stood out thanks to his impressive size (6 foot 7, 210 pounds) and three-pitch arsenal of a 93 mph fastball, change-up, and curve. Despite his youth and still maturing body, Ynoa was heralded for his excellent control and mound presence which was projected to serve him well at the professional level as he developed. Deemed the most impressive Dominican pitching prospect since Felix Hernandez, Ynoa was hands down the pick of the litter amongst his peers. With the Athletics predilection for players with strong baseball bloodlines (Ben Grieve, Nick Swisher, Bobby Crosby), Ynoa was especially appealing since both his father (Simon) and mother (Juana) had both excelled on the baseball and softball fields.
With Ynoa inked before his 17th birthday there was little reason to rush his development. Unfortunately since turning professional, Ynoa has suffered a myriad of arm injuries that have kept him off the mound for the majority of his career. With 3 separate stints on the 60-day disabled list, and one trip under the knife for Tommy John Surgery his career was essentially put on hold as he recovered and built up arm strength following the operation. Limited largely to bullpen session in extended spring training, Ynoa was finally unleashed with the A’s rookie league team in Arizona before moving up to pitch a smattering of innings with the Single-A Vermont Lake Monsters. While his numbers were less than impressive ( 25 K’s and 25 BB’s in 30.2 combined innings) it was great to see the tall righty back on the mound for his first extended look in professional ball.
The A’s were unwilling to try to sneak Ynoa past December’s Rule-5 draft, and by adding him to the roster they no longer have to worry about another team taking a chance on his enormous potential. What the future holds, much like the man himself is a mystery. It’s a reasonable projection that he could find himself making a few token cameo appearances with the A’s in Spring Training before being reassigned back to Single-A. Given his age and injury history it’s difficult to manifest a specific timetable for the fledgeling hurler. Fortunately the organization-wide pitching strength of the Oakland Athletics should provide ample time for Ynoa to get back on track, and provide the team with a return on the substantial investment they made years ago.