Despite stumbling a bit in his previous two starts, Huascar Ynoa has been at the top of his game lately. He built on his recent success with another brilliant outing Friday night.
The Braves' 30th-ranked prospect gave up a hit and four walks while striking out seven over six innings as Class A Rome blanked Augusta, 5-0, at SRP Park. Ynoa is unscored upon in three of his last five starts and has a 4.26 ERA through 14 starts in his first full Minor League season.
"Mechanically, he's just been trying to work out in front with his release point, trying to keep him under control," Braves pitching coach Dan Meyer said. "You see the arm, you know this stuff's there. You look at the body, the ability to get a little extra on the fastball. All that stuff is God-given, to a point."
Meyer praised Ynoa's diligence and said that the right-hander can consistently produce low-to-mid 90s velocity without overthrowing, which allows him to put a premium on command. The 20-year-old trusted his slider throughout the season but has developed more confidence in a changeup, which has afforded him some quick outs during his recent hot streak.
"Understanding that his changeup is a quality out-pitch for him when he stays through it and he stays consistent ... the problem is nowadays the changeup is just not a sexy pitch. You might not get a ton of strikeouts with it," Meyer said. "[His changeup] has helped his ability to get guys out with the fastball."
Gameday box score
Signed by the Twins out of the Dominican Republic for $800,000 in 2014, Ynoa (5-7) landed with the Braves last July in the deal that sent left-hander Jaime Garcia and catcher Anthony Recker to Minnesota. He went 0-4 with a 5.26 ERA in 13 starts with Rookie-level Elizabethton and Danville in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. He has not previously thrown more than 57 innings in a season, but he has already worked 67 2/3 frames this year with more than two months left to go.
"He's very meticulous when it comes to his routine, and it's tough for these kids," Meyer said. "Time will tell how it plays out, but he's a big, strong kid. He works hard. He's under control mechanically. He doesn't do anything crazy as far as max effort. I expect him to keep to his role. He'll struggle here and there at times, as young kids do, but he's going to get stronger and he's going to keep doing what he's doing for us."
The youngster lost six of his first seven decisions in the South Atlantic League, putting up a 6.56 ERA through nine starts. He broke that trend with successive scoreless outings against Asheville, allowing four hits over six innings in each contest, while setting a career high with 11 strikeouts in the latter.
Ynoa worked seven innings for the first time as a pro on June 11 in Greenville and repeated the feat in his next start against Lexington but surrendered six earned runs over that span.
On Friday night, the 6-foot-3, 175-pounder carried a no-hitter into the fifth before Nick Hill blooped a two-out single into center field. He worked around a pair of walks in the first and another free pass in the third before walking Ryan Kirby to start the fifth. Ynoa recorded back-to-back strikeouts ahead of Kirby's hit but got Logan Baldwin to bounce to third to end the frame.
"When you have somebody with such a power arm at such a young age, walks are kind of part of the package," the 37-year-old coach said. "For him to walk guys tonight and be able to get through it and still keep under control and not let one walk turn into three runs, I think says a lot about his ability to compete and stay under control."
Following a 1-2-3 sixth in which he punched out top Giants prospect Heliot Ramos and 10th-ranked Jacob Gonzalez, Ynoa exited. He threw 60 of 99 pitches for strikes.
Braves No. 18 prospect Drew Waters and 28th-ranked Drew Lugbauer delivered RBI singles for Rome. Waters added a ninth-inning double and scored twice.