Next up on the list is a product of the 2008 draft that could break out development-wise in 2012…
No. 48: Tyler J. Ybarra
Starting Pitcher / 22 years old / 6′2″ 170 lbs
Born: December 11, 1989 in Wellington, Kansas
Bats: Left Throws: Left
High School: Wellington H.S. (Crusaders)
Drafted By: The Toronto Blue Jays in the 43rd round (1299th overall) of the 2008 Amateur Draft
Jersey Number: 22 for the Bluefield Blue Jays
Pre-2011 Rank: N/A
- Pitching in the big leagues has been a dream of his since he was four years old
- His father, Jesse, before being sidelined with a shoulder injury, was drafted by Cincinnati in 1984 and caused Tyler to grow up a Reds fan
- Models his game after Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee
- The first Wellington H.S. player to get drafted since the Tigers selected Nate Cornejo in the sandwich round of the 1998 draft
- Signed a letter of intent with Hutchinson Community College prior to being drafted by the Blue Jays
- Mixed high school results in his draft year — 40 strikeouts, 16 hits, and 25 walks in 28.2 innings — negatively affected his draft position
Bluefield Blue Jays team ranking among starters:
- 1st in K/9 (10.6)
- T-2nd lowest in home runs allowed (2)
- 3rd in ERA (2.15), strikeouts (54), WHIP (1.087), and H/9 (6.7),
- T-3rd in walks (16)
- 4th in innings pitched (46.0) and K/BB ratio (3.38)
Extra Information and previous experience:
It’s not every day that a late-round draft pick from over three years ago pitching in rookie ball makes our top 50 prospects list, but left-hander Tyler Ybarra has persevered his way onto it.
The 1299th-overall selection by the Jays in 2008, Ybarra didn’t make his professional debut until the following year in 2009 as a 19-year-old. Pitching in relief for the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays, Ybarra finished the year having allowed 20 runs (15 earned) on 29 hits in 20 innings with seven wild pitches and 10 walks to 11 strikeouts; not exactly a captivating debut campaign. Something else might have been affecting him, though, as he decided to walk away from baseball for the entire 2010 season because of family issues that kept him at home.
But in 2011, a motivated and rejuvenated Ybarra arrived in Dunedin for spring training, and the Kansas native was elated just to be playing baseball again.
“I was really happy to be in extended [spring training] unlike other players who feel like they shouldn’t be there or aren’t happy to be there,” Ybarra told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. “I really embraced the fact to be playing ball. I think it helped me a lot to get real good work out of my time down there.”
Having been out of baseball for over one year, Ybarra had his work cut out for him after leaving Dunedin following his assignment to Bluefield in June. Then again, having to defy the odds is nothing new for the 22-year-old, who waited patiently until his name called back on draft day, all the way down in the 43rd round.
“It’s just the opportunity that you’re looking for regardless of where it is or how you get it,” Ybarra reflected to the Wellington Daily News about being selected so late in the draft. “Once you get it, you just try to be in the moment.”
Ybarra certainly seized that moment, as he looked dominant with Bluefield this past season and opened a lot of eyes in the process.
After giving up three earned runs in his first 5.1 innings with the B-Jays, he went on to allow just four earned runs in the entire month of July — a span of 19 frames. Initially being used out of the bullpen, Ybarra was moved to the rotation in the middle of the season and he made the most of the opportunity. He carried his July success into August and eventually the Appalachian League playoffs in September, allowing four earned runs once again, but this time in 21.2 innings of work. Overall, he finished the year 2-0 with a 2.15 ERA (2.53 FIP) in 46 innings, including 34 hits, 16 walks and 54 strikeouts.
The reason for Ybarra’s impressive strikeout numbers this past season was primarily his slider, which missed a lot of bats overall and was particularly nasty to left-handed hitters. He complements his slider with a low 90s fastball with good life that he already commands fairly well. There were also rumblings that Ybarra added a changeup at the beginning of the season and that it is already proving to be an effective pitch, though I’ll confirm that first-hand on the road next year.
Expected 2012 team: Vancouver Canadians (A-, short-season)
Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: No. 5 starter
Ybarra made considerable strides this past season after being away from the game for such a long period of time. He’ll continue to, like many young pitchers, work on repeating his delivery and conditioning himself to be ready to pitch more innings next year, among other things.
Like David Rollins, Ybarra, who recently turned 22 years old, will have to have success with a full-season club in 2012, but could also gradually work his way up the minor league ladder as a full-time reliever.
What a difference one year made for Ybarra, and it will be interesting to see how he fared at this time next season with another year of minor league experience.