Did the Athletics really need to protect Michael Ynoa?

Ezra Shaw

One of the more notable 40-man roster decisions was the addition of oft-injured Michael Ynoa to the A's roster.

Tuesday was the day on which teams had to set their 40-man rosters; players not on 40-man rosters are potentially available in the Rule 5 Draft, held in a couple of weeks at the Winter Meetings. For the most part, these decisions are inconsequential, involving marginal major leaguers and marginal prospects.

Some of these decisions are pretty interesting, though. For example:

On the final day for clubs to set their 40-man roster, the A's on Tuesday added four players and subtracted three in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft.

By selecting infielder Grant Green, outfielder Shane Peterson and right-hander Arnold Leon from Triple-A Sacramento and right-hander Michael Ynoa from Class A Vermont, the A's have protected them from the Rule 5 Draft, to be held Dec. 6 at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn.


Ynoa, though only in Class A, is one of the highest regarded prospects in the A's organization, having signed with them out of the Dominican Republic in 2008 via a then-record $4.25 million bonus at age 16 -- an investment the A's likely couldn't afford to lose, despite his slow progress.

Since signing, the 6-foot-7 Ynoa, now 21, has missed significant time because of elbow injuries, which led to Tommy John surgery. He missed all of 2011, but returned in 2012 to tally 30 2/3 innings, posting a 6.46 ERA.

Did you catch that one bit? "Ynoa ... is one of the highest regarded prospects in the A's organization."

Uh, maybe that's a typo? I think it's supposed to read that Ynoa was highly regarded.

Or maybe not. This is, of course, the problem with state-sponsored journalism; if you tell the truth, you're a good candidate for the Gulag.

Sure, Ynoa was once considered one of the Athletics' top prospects. But he isn't, now. Below are Ynoa's rankings in the organization, according to Baseball America:

2009: 3rd
2010: 11th
2011: 25th
2012: 27th

With that last report, BA wrote, "If healthy, Ynoa will pitch in the Arizona League or at Vermont in 2012. He still has frontline potential, but it's time he gets on the mound and shows it."

Well, he did get on the mound. First in the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he walked nine batters in 10 innings. And next in the short-season New York-Penn League, where he walked 16 batters in 21 innings. His strikeout rate was fine (if not brilliant) and he threw reasonably hard (touching 95, usually in the 90-93 range), but he just hasn't come close to finding a groove yet, which isn't surprising when one considers how little he's pitched since signing with the A's.

What's odd about this move isn't that the A's want to keep him. What's odd is they were concerned about another team drafting Ynoa if he weren't protected; if a team did draft Ynoa, they would have to keep him on their 25-man major league roster all season, or offer him back to the A's. Which would seem like a strange thing, considering that Ynoa really needs to be pitching regularly if he's going to develop.

Who knows, though? Maybe a team like the Astros -- okay, just the Astros -- might be willing to essentially play with a 24-man roster, and then begin Ynoa's real development in 2014. If the arm is really there, maybe it will wait.

But we shouldn't discount the possibility that the A's just couldn't stand the thought of investing $4.25 million and untold man-hours in Ynoa, only to see him putting on some other club's uniform next spring.

History suggests that if Ynoa does someday become a successful major-league pitcher, he will be wearing a different uniform. But it's hard to give up on the dream ...

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