When the New York Mets handed out postseason hardware to their minor leaguers, they gave the Sterling minor league pitcher of the year award to 20-year-old right-hander Gabriel Ynoa. While awards like this are generally based more on performance than potential, Ynoa is definitely a prospect to watch.
Out of a large contingent of young foreign-born pitchers that had a great season while pitching for the Mets’ affiliate in Brooklyn in 2012, including Luis Cessa, Luis Mateo and Rainy Lara, Ynoa had the best followup season by far. He spent all of 2013 pitching for the Mets’ affiliate in Savannah, helping the Sand Gnats win the South Atlantic League championship as the ace of the pitching staff that also included Steven Matz, one of the Mets’ top pitching prospects.
Ynoa won 15 games in 2013, losing only four in 22 starts. That does not include the postseason, during which he won both games he started while allowing two runs in 14.2 innings. In 135.2 innings during the regular season, Ynoa struck out over 100 batters, walked only 16, and held an ERA of 2.72. Those are impressive stats for any pitcher at any level, as Ynoa was one of the highlights of what was a rather successful season for the Mets’ farm system.
Beyond his impressive stats, Ynoa has major league potential. He’s very much in the mold of Rafael Montero, who is the Mets’ second-best pitching prospect and will compete in Spring Training for a spot in the major league rotation. Like Montero, Ynoa has great control and isn’t afraid to pound the strike zone. He throws his fastball in the low 90s and could potentially have three average or better pitches, highlighted by an above-average changeup.
What makes Ynoa even more intriguing is that he’s still only 20-years old and won’t turn 21 until next May. He has considerable amounts of confidence, poise and polish for a young pitcher and if they want, the Mets can be aggressive with him next year with regards to moving him through the farm system quickly.
He’s not the power pitcher that top prospect Noah Syndergaard is, but Ynoa has a chance to be a consistent and reliable back-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues, and is a prospect Mets fans should be watching.