The Lansing Lugnuts’ 2012 season was built around a stellar pitching staff. While the starting rotation received a lot of recognition over the year, there was one reliever that had scouts buzzing all summer long – Tyler Ybarra. The 22-year-old lefty from Wellington, Kansas was consistently raved about by scouts, management, and certainly, the fans.
“Ybarra has a ‘big league arm.’ We clocked his fastball at 95 mph. He has good potential,” said one scout to JaysProspects.
Ybarra’s road to Lansing was not an easy one. It took a lot of hard work and dedication, but Ybarra states the opportunities he has been presented with has been worth every ounce of sweat he has wiped from his brow and every second he has dedicated to his career.
“Back in 2008, I was just excited to be drafted. For me, it was an honor and a blessing. To be honest, I didn’t really care who I was drafted by as long as I was given the opportunity. Since that day, I’ve just been trying to make the most of it and doing anything I can to get better.” he said.
Growing up in Wellington, Kansas, Ybarra dreamed of pitching in the big leagues since he was four years old. His goal was to follow in his father’s footsteps as his father, Jesse, was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1984. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury abruptly ended his father’s career.
In Wellington, the younger Ybarra was a three sport star, “I played baseball, basketball, and football. I loved all sports,” he said.
Ybarra’s abilities with multiple sports is not the only way that he has displayed his versatility as Ybarra discussed that he has the ability to field more positions than just pitcher. “Growing up I also played first base and all around the outfield,” he said. “But when I started to pitch, I really enjoyed it and I’ve stuck with it ever since!”
Blue Jays fans should be happy Ybarra has stuck with it as he has found success since joining the Blue Jays organization. In 2009, Ybarra made his organizational debut with the GCL Blue Jays. On the season, he appeared in 16 games going 2-4 with a 6.64 ERA striking out 11 and walking ten in 20 1/3 innings of work.
Ybarra took the 2010 season off due to personal reasons, but in 2011 Ybarra came back with a solid season for the Bluefield Blue Jays going 2-0 with a 2.15 ERA with 54 strikeouts, 16 walks, and five starts in 46 innings of work. He’d end his 2011 season playing for both the Vancouver Canadians and the Lansing Lugnuts. His solid season caught scouts eyes heading into the 2012 season.
“My season in Bluefield was a really good experience. I was also lucky to get the chance to join Vancouver and Lansing for their playoff runs. Winning the NWL Championship was a real thrill and getting to Lansing to play in another playoff run was a real honor and showed me what I had to do this [past] year,” said the young Southpaw.
The success Ybarra found in 2011 carried on into 2012, where Ybarra went 3-2 with a 2.27 ERA with 57 strikeouts, 26 walks, and two saves in 43 2/3 innings of work with the Lansing Lugnuts. “I feel like I had a pretty fair season. I definitely learned a lot of things regarding to staying consistent with my delivery and getting after it every time I’m on the mound. I only hope to be able to keep working on it and keep getting better.”
While Ybarra credited his success to the improvements he has made and the staff and teammates who have helped him throughout his journey, he further added that his pitch repertoire has been able to help him record some key outs throughout his seasons. “Right now I use four pitches,”
“I have a fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a change-up. My fastball ranges anywhere from 93 to 96 mph.”
The added velocity on his fastball is something that not only brings Ybarra some pride, but also the pitching staff who have witnessed the transformation in Ybarra’s mechanics and pitches. Lansing Lugnuts pitching coach, Vince Horsman, spoke about his progression at the end of the 2012 season. “Tyler is a guy who greatly improved throughout the season,” Horsman began. “He came in throwing somewhere between 88 to 91 mph but by the end of the year, thanks to a lot of hard work, he was throwing 94 to 96 mph. He’s commanding the ball and becoming a very dominant left-handed pitcher. One of the few dominant left-handers I’ve seen in the league.”
Expect Tyler Ybarra to find continued success in 2013 as he makes his way through the Blue Jays minor league system.