Braves' Huascar Ynoa shows flashes of former self in first start of MiLB season

Once consider a top talent for the Braves, Ynoa started his journey back to competitive pitching this week.
Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers
Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers / Kevork Djansezian/GettyImages

It's been a while since Huascar Ynoa has experienced a full season with the Atlanta Braves. He missed time during his debut season after fracturing his hand by punching a dugout bench. This ended his 2021 season and was a big lesson learned for the young right-hander.

He spent most of the 2022 season with Triple-A Gwinnett and pitched in 18 games with a 5.68 ERA including 35 walks and 87 strikeouts. He appeared in two games at the MLB level but it wasn't pretty. Ynoa had a 13.50 ERA through 6.2 innings with 10 runs earned, six walks, and eight strikeouts.

In September 2022, the Braves announced Ynoa would undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the entire 2023 campaign. He is finally healthy and hopes to return to a big league mound at some point.

Well, that journey started in Spring Training as he pitched 1 inning allowing one hit, issuing one walk, and striking out one batter. This week, Ynoa made his 2024 debut for the Gwinnett Stripers and he looked good considering how long it has been since he's pitched competitively.

Huascar completed four innings of work, allowing no runs on two hits with one walk and two strikeouts. He looked good on the mound with his fastball sitting in the 91-93 mph range. That is a bit lower than he used to throw but that will likely improve the more he throws. Ynoa's slider still had very good movement and he even utilized his changeup a bit.

This is an encouraging sign for Ynoa and the Braves. However, if there were any concerns to keep an eye on, it's that he had very little separation in velocity within his pitch mix. Statcast had the right-hander clocking 89 mph on the change-up, his slider was around 84-86 mph, and his fastball around 91 mph on average.

That lack of variation would make it very hard to fool a lot of MLB bats without immaculate movement and location. This is a very minor concern but something Atlanta will want to see some improvement on this season. He may not pitch on the MLB roster but how he performs this year could determine his future with Atlanta.

The team will be very patient with Ynoa as they know how talented his arm is and that he could be a great asset within the Braves rotation or even as a long relief option out of the bullpen. Whatever happens, it's good to see Huascar back on the mound and working his way back.

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