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Gabriel Ynoa has the chance to stick in the rotation

With the Orioles’ subpar pitching and home run tendencies this year, there is a glaring need for capable starters.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Do you know Gabriel Ynoa’s age off the top of your head?

He turned 26 less than two weeks ago.

I’d say that’s still young for a pitcher. Don’t jump to any conclusions here, but that’s the same age as left-handed rookie sensation John Means. Just saying. But unlike Means, Ynoa has never gotten a real chance to prove himself in the bigs. It looks like he’ll get that chance now.

Under the previous Orioles management, Ynoa was acquired in a cash transaction with the Mets in February 2017. He almost left the organization this past offseason, but the Birds signed him to a minor league deal October 31 and outrighted him to Norfolk.

Two years ago in 2017, which happened to be his first year with the Orioles, Ynoa split his time between the minors and the majors. In 106.1 Triple-A innings, he was 6-9 with a 5.25 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. In 34.2 MLB innings, he was 2-3 with a 4.15 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, making four starts for the O’s and five appearances out of the bullpen.

Last season, 2018, was a lost year for Ynoa due to injury. The O’s placed him on what was then called the disabled list for a right shin stress reaction right near the end of spring training, on March 29, 2018. On April 24, Ynoa was transferred to the 60-day DL when a shoulder problem surfaced. He was inactive up until June 14, when he joined the Bowie Baysox in Double-A.

While rehabbing in the Eastern League last year, Ynoa pitched a total of seven innings while putting up a 2.57 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and six strikeouts with zero walks. Those seven innings included a start that lasted three innings and another that lasted four. He didn’t pitch again all season.

Ynoa has some interesting career splits as far as usage as well. In the majors, the Orioles have been flip-flopping him between the bullpen and the rotation since they acquired him.

In 21 appearances out of the bullpen, including five games finished, Ynoa has a 5.95 ERA and 1.63 WHIP in 39.1 innings pitched. In nine career games started his numbers aren’t great, but they’re than his stats as a reliever. He’s got a 4.02 ERA. 1.41 WHIP and only three home runs allowed in 40.1 innings.

Early on in his young career, Ynoa has actually produced more strikeouts at the major league level, averaging 7.8 in the bigs while only managing 5.7 SO/9 in the minors. But he has shown better overall control in the minors, averaging 3.59 SO/W versus 2.88 in MLB.

As far as Ynoa’s pitch repetoire, Brooks Baseball provides an excellent glimpse:

His slider has some two-plane movement. His fourseam fastball has heavy sinking action, has essentially average velo, results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers and has slight armside run. His sinker has slight armside run, has slightly above average velo and has some natural sinking action. His change generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ changeups, has an obvious armside fade and is slightly firmer than usual.

That looks like something to work with. Two of the big takeaways there are the ground balls induced by the four-seamer and the changeup being a swing-and-miss pitch. At the very least that looks like something to work with. Who knows what a full year of tutelage under the analytical approach of the Elias regime can do?

But back to the present. And that brings us to the glaring need for starters. While Means, Cashner and Bundy are locked into the top three spots of the rotation at the moment, Ynoa has a chance to prove himself now with Dan Straily being moved to the bullpen recently. Up until this point, the back-end of the Orioles’ rotation has produced lackluster results, to say the least.

The Orioles pitching staff, as a team, is allowing 2.1 home runs per nine innings so far this year. Ynoa, on the other hand, has proven himself capable of keeping the ball in the park over the course of his career. In parts of 10 minor league seasons, he’s allowed an average of 0.7 HR/9. In parts of three MLB seasons, that number is 1.0 HR/9.

The right-hander has only made nine major league starts in the past four years. In 2016 with the Mets, he started three games. In 2017 with the O’s, he started four. 2018 was virtually a wash, and this year he has made two.

What I’m getting at, is that Ynoa has never really been given a chance. It seems like he will get that chance now.

All stats provided by MLB, MiLB and Baseball Reference.