The Oakland A's surprised everyone when they signed Michael Ynoa to an international amateur free agent contract in July 2008. Ynoa was by far the most highly regarded international free agent talent that summer and his decision to sign with Oakland signified a shift in the A's standing in Latin America from an organization looking to sign cheap talent to an organization willing to compete for the top names each year.
At the time Ynoa signed his contract, which was worth a then-record $4.25 million, many predicted that the hard-throwing right-hander would follow a similar career path to Seattle Mariners' superstar Felix Hernandez. Unfortunately, injuries have sidetracked Ynoa's progress through the minor leagues. Coming into this season, the native of the Dominican Republic had thrown less than 10 innings in professional baseball.
The 2012 season has been a positive one for Ynoa, however. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2010, Ynoa spent all of the 2011 campaign rehabbing. He continued that rehab through spring training and, despite a minor setback during extended spring training, was able to pitch throughout most of the short-season schedule. Although his numbers haven't been where he or the organization would like them to be (an 8.03 ERA with a 24:19 BB:K ratio in 24.2 innings for Arizona and Vermont), Ynoa has flashed plus stuff at times and, most importantly, has remained healthy.
The A's will need to make an important roster decision with Ynoa this off-season. He will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this December if the A's don't add him to the 40-man roster by the November deadline. Although he will enter this off-season with fewer than 50 professional innings under his belt, Ynoa is still a strong candidate to be added to the A's 40-man roster given his talent and the investment the organization has already made in him. Regardless, Ynoa's ability to finish the 2012 season healthy and making progress with his pitches will have a large impact on his future in 2013 and beyond.
Donald Moore spoke with the soon-to-be 21-year-old during the Lake Monsters' recent series in Troy, New York against the Tri-City Valley Cats.
Donald Moore: Hi Michael, how is everything going so for you this year?
Michael Ynoa: Good. It's going good, thank God. Everything is working like I want and I feel good.
DM: What was spring training like for you this year?
MY: Well, it was a little bit hard for me because I was not ready [physically], but now I'm ready and pitching again and I feel great, thank God.
DM: Any off season plans?
MY: I don't know yet.
DM: How does it feel playing in the United States?
MY: When I first signed, it was a little bit hard because I didn't speak a lot of English. It was difficult for me to understand a lot, and now I just learned how to speak English and understand, and now I am good.
DM: What do you like most about being a professional baseball player?
MY: I like to be here playing, and looking at other teams and how they play. I look everyday at a different team and try to learn to pitch against them. It feels good.
DM: Do you feel a lot of pressure because of your status in the A's organization, and for the contract that you signed?
MY: When I signed, yes, but now I just keep working and pitching. Now that I'm pitching, I feel good. I'm relaxed and feel good.
DM: What is your greatest strength as a baseball player?
MY: Keep working hard, don't look back. Just think in the present and about the future. And work for your future.
DM: Any pregame routine?
MY: Ah, no.
DM: Any hobbies?
MY: Yes, listening to music and reading the Bible everyday when I wake up and go to sleep. That's it.
DM: Favorite team growing up?
DM: If there is one person who taught you the most about baseball, who would that be?
MY: Roy Halladay.
DM: Craziest thing you ever saw on a baseball diamond?
MY: Nothing crazy this year.
DM: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
MY: Well, in big leagues pitching, and I would like to be a Cy Young winner, God willing.
DM: Thank you so much for your time Michael, and the best of luck to you.