Sand Gnats coaches have heaped praise on young right-hander Gabriel Ynoa since the start of the…
Ynoa Pitching Beyond His Years
"Here's this young little 17 year old kid, and then you watch him pitch and see that he's beyond his years," Viola said. "In St. Lucie he was one of those few guys that went up on the mound, had a presence and threw strikes. And that's a pretty nice gift at 17 years old.
To Viola, mound presence is when "you look at someone and say "he's" in charge" adding that "Gabriel is the type of kid that is in charge" with a mound presence that is "years ahead of the learning curve already."
Viola also complemented the evolution of the stuff Ynoa brings to the mound.
"He can spot his fastball in, out, up, down, his command is really good, his changeup has come a long way, and his slider has improved in the last two years to be a really nice, tight pitch," Viola added.
Viola said that the curveball is an offering that Ynoa has also worked to improve and has used intelligently and sparingly.
On the mound Ynoa comes after hitters with a four-pitch mix. He throws two-seam and four-seam fastballs ranging anywhere from 90-95 mph [but usually sitting 92-93] a slider, curveball, and circle change.
Ynoa's curveball has an 11-5 break and he uses it to get ahead in the count to then come after hitters with his slider and changeup. But Ynoa personally prefers his mid-80s two-seam circle changeup to his other off-speed offerings, saying he likes the way it offsets hitter's timing and balance.
Ynoa has what Viola describes as a smooth, effortless pitching motion. The only tweak to his mechanics thus far has been an attempt to cut down on the slight amount of extra head movement Ynoa had in his windup, which Viola feels can result in "too many moving parts."
That smooth windup allows Ynoa to make his low to mid-nineties fastball that much more effective.
"It's 92-93 [the fastball] but it's an effortless windup and all of a sudden the ball is on top of the hitters," Viola said.
Viola said that the curveball is a pitch that Ynoa has also worked to improve and has used intelligently and sparingly.
Since first pitching in the States in 2011 Ynoa has posted a 10-7 record and 2.55 era in 25 starts entering Tuesday's contest.
His strikeout numbers have increased each year. Ynoa's strikeouts per nine innings have improved from 3.9 in 2011 to 7.51 in 2012 and 8.6 early in 2013. Coach Viola said the increase in strikeouts is related to Ynoa getting to know himself as a pitcher and Ynoa's willingness to pitch inside [another aspect that sets him apart from a lot of 19 year old pitchers].
"The one thing people are petrified of doing especially when you're young is pitch inside. Gabriel is not afraid to pitch inside," Viola said, "so you get a lot of strikeouts because the hitter is leery of the inside pitch and that opens up the outside corner.
"And if you're a strike-thrower like Gabriel and you can hit that inside corner then the strikeouts become easier."
But Viola said Ynoa can still improve in his pitching off the plate inside as a purpose pitch, adding that a player like Ynoa must experience this lesson to understand it and that "with his command off [the plate inside] Gabriel could be devastating with that pitch."
Viola also thinks Ynoa could mix his stuff up more by throwing sliders and changeups in fastball counts, but that the main objective for Ynoa in 2013 is to gain experience.
"Get experience, gain experience. He needs to be out there throwing getting innings," the pitching coach remarked.
Viola felt Ynoa has had a good start to the year. The first main road bump Viola has seen for Ynoa in 2013 has been his first experience pitching in cold weather. But now that the cold has passed Ynoa can concentrate on improving other aspects of his pitching.
Viola would like Ynoa to continue to be more aggressive and not try to "be too perfect", which Viola feels has caused him to fall behind counts in his first two starts.
"Last game was the first time he's really come out and gone right after the hitters and established the fastball the way we would like him too," Viola said of Ynoa's May 2nd start against Kannapolis.
Holding base runners is usually an area of improvement for hurlers at this level. Ynoa said he feels good about his ability to hold runners and Viola reported that Ynoa's time to home from the stretch is in the 1.1 second range which is inside the 1.3 second window for effectively holding runners.
Pitching in his first full season, Ynoa did not see any major obstacles related to the increased workload. His main focus is to maintain a strong mental outlook to help him deal with the extra six or seven starts he is likely to receive. Thus far Ynoa's pitch count has been in the 90-95 range.
From a conditioning perspective the 6-foot-2 Ynoa is up to 190 pounds from the 158 listed on the Sand Gnats website. Despite never having pitched more than 76 innings in a season he reported not doing anything different from his previous offseasons in preparation. Ynoa focused on running and using the Mets' plan as a guide for his workouts.
Going into the season Ynoa wanted to slow his pace on the mound and not rush himself. He feels he has succeeded thus far.
Coach Viola agreed Ynoa would benefit from slowing things down.
"He fast forwards everything," Viola said, "he likes to get the ball and go but sometimes it's a little too quick."
Ynoa's goals for the year are to finish the season strong and focus only on his pitching and not worry about whether or not the organization decides to promote him in the system or allow him to finish the year in low-A Savannah.
Gabriel Ynoa has displayed not only the physical ability to be a successful professional pitcher but also the mental attributes, mound presence, and maturity to help him harness his talents.
"He understands the game beyond the pitching part of it," Viola said, "he just flat out knows how to play the game of baseball."
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