April 2, 2014
One of the few Toronto draft picks from 2008 still with the organization today, Tyler Ybarra is a left-handed reliever that’s seen a pleasant increase in his prospect stock in recent years.
Selected by the Blue Jays in the 43rd round with the 1,299th overall selection, Ybarra made his pro debut the following year in 2009 with mixed results in the Gulf Coast League before taking the entire 2010 season off due to personal reasons. The time off appeared to work for him, as he reported to Bluefield in 2011 and allowed just 34 hits in 46 innings, with 54 strikeouts to 16 walks.
It wasn’t until Ybarra donned a Lansing Lugnuts uniform, however, that he really started to get noticed. At the start of the season, he was throwing his fastball in the 88-90 mph range. By the end of the year and after some mechanical changes, though, he was being clocked as high as 96; impressive enough as a southpaw but even more so given such a big increase. With scouts flocking to Lansing that year to see the infamous starting pitching trio of Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino, Ybarra was quietly generating press box chatter among evaluators as an unexpected find and major league arm.
“When I signed I was still a young man, not quite developed into my body yet,” Ybarra said. “I was doing some things wrong but I’ve tightened up my delivery and it has produced stronger velocity.”
Ybarra short arms the ball in his delivery with great deception before fiercely whipping his arm through a low three-quarter slot to get the zip he needs on his pitches. Unsurprisingly, he’s had mild injury concerns because of this, so the Blue Jays are managing his workload and days off rather closely, but there’s no denying the quality of Ybarra’s stuff and that he’s no longer that far away from the majors.
Complementing his fastball with a surprisingly deep secondary arsenal of slider, curveball and changeup, Ybarra was practically unhittable in 2013 while pitching for Dunedin. Managing a crisp 1.95 ERA/2.64 FIP in a career-high 55 innings, the Kansas native only gave up 30 hits and didn’t hit a batter or surrender a home run all season. After managing reverse splits against lefties and righties in 2012 with Lansing, Ybarra turned things around and limited left-handed hitters to a mere .387 OPS last season.
More impressively, Ybarra put together a streak of nearly 29 scoreless innings from May 21 to July 7, when he limited opposing batters to just seven hits (.080 average) and a .322 OPS. 15 of his 16 appearances during the streak lasted more than one inning, and nine of them were for six outs or more.
“I stuck with my routine that I figured out,” the 24-year-old said. “I started out rough but I really put my nose to the grindstone and was hoping to get out of the funk that I was in. I finally found a routine that worked and I tried to ride it as long as I could.”
Having just turned 24 in December, Ybarra has successfully made up for lost time and will slot in nicely into the Fisher Cats’ bullpen, where all signs point to him having another solid year.