When the 16 year old phenom Michael Ynoa shocked the baseball world by signing with the low budget Oakland Athletics in 2008, many expected Ynoa to become the next great Oakland A’s ace. Some experts even considered Ynoa to be the best Latin American pitching prospect since King Felix Hernandez. General manager Billy Beane broke his money ball mantra by spending a record 4.25 million dollars for the 16 year old Ynoa. The baseball world knew Ynoa must be a special talent for Beane to take such a high risk move on a young player. What made Ynoa’s signing more shocking was that Beane was always hesitant to select high school players in the draft, but Ynoa was the age of a sophomore in high school. However a half a decade and many surgeries later, Ynoa is finally pitching in A-ball.
The Michael Ynoa experiment looked like a disaster after he was forced to have Tommy John surgery after his first 9 innings as a professional. While Tommy John surgery has resurrected many careers, it was a disastrous sign for a prized 18 year old prospect. During his 18 month rehab, Ynoa was a forgotten man as the A’s had yet another spectacular playoff run that was led by young pitchers. It was not until the end of the 2012 season that Ynoa’s name was even mentioned with the big league club as the A’s added him to the 40-man roster, so he would not be stolen away in the rule 5 draft.
At the start of 2013, Ynoa looked like the prospect we all hoped he would be as he had a 2.14 ERA and made the all-star game, unfortunately this was all in A-ball which is a far cry from the King Felix comparisons made in 2008. In any case, Ynoa’s rise has finally put him back in the mix as one of the A’s top prospects.
I had a chance to interview Ynoa in beautiful Stockton, California (maybe a bit of an exaggeration) about his struggles and what his future holds in baseball.[youtube id=”na_JLJ45E2E” width=”600″ height=”350″]
When asked about the pressures of being so hyped at such a young age Ynoa seemed contrite.
“It was difficult, I was a little scared, you know it was just difficult,” said the soft spoken Ynoa.
You can tell that Ynoa had a tough time adjusting to the high expectations that faced him when he arrived in the United States. Not only did Ynoa have to learn a new language and culture, but he also had to compete with men who were far older than him.
Ynoa also said that he finally feels that he has his fastball back for the first time in years. He also feels that he can become the starting pitcher that people thought he would be, when he was rated the top Latin American prospect.
Once again the Oakland A’s are stocked with young starting pitchers as Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray, AJ Griffin, Dan Strailey, Tommy Milone, and Brett Anderson are all expected to carry the ball club for years to come. In the best case scenario, Ynoa would be big league ready by the end of the 2014 or the beginning of the 2015 season. Ynoa would still be a spry 24 year old by that time, so he still has years left to prove himself. It is unlikely that Billy Beane trades Ynoa because his stock could not be much lower. If Ynoa can build on his success that he has had this year, he should become a solid major league pitcher. Only time will tell what the future hold for the 21 year old Michael Ynoa but he is working as hard as he can to become the phenom we all thought he would be.