Given enough time, I will be able to cover all the Valley League alumni who have been named top prospects by various media outlets…. and today, I’ll start with Ryan Yarbrough (Luray 2012)!
Ryan was a 4th round pick in the 2014 draft (111th overall) by the Seattle Mariners out of Old Dominion. He’s 6-foot-5 and has decent stuff, so if he can stay healthy, Ryan has some upside.
John Sickels named Ryan the 9th best prospect in the Seattle system, and said this:
Grade C+: Age 24, fourth round pick from Old Dominion in 2014, posted 4.10 ERA with 88/23 K/BB in 97 innings between High-A and some rookie ball rehab work after a groin injury; threw 87-89 in college but up to 92-94 as a pro thanks to mechanical improvements, above-average change-up, average breaking ball, throws strikes, fourth starter projection.
There weren’t many pleasant surprises for the Mariners in 2015, but Yarbrough qualifies. He isn’t overpowering, but he’ll throw his two- and four-seam fastballs for strikes with downhill plane, and he’ll occasionally touch the mid-90s. For the most part, he keeps that same plane and arm speed when throwing his change, and there’s just enough movement to call it an above-average offering.
Those two pitches would make Yarbrough a mid-rotation starter if had could spin a competent breaking ball. Unfortunately, Yarbrough can’t spin a competent breaking ball, at least not consistently. He locates his curveball for strikes—as he does with his other offerings—but it’s often slurvy and hangs up in the zone.
Yarbrough has a chance to start because he repeats his delivery well and throws three pitches for strikes, but expecting anything more than a fifth starter is expecting an awful lot.
Fangraphs places Ryan at #8 in the system:
Yarbrough has great feel for his arsenal and plus potential command. Though none of his fastball, slider or changeup are standout pitches, he mixes and spots them well enough to keep hitters out of rhythm. His changeup could come close to being a plus pitch if locates it consistently as well as on his best days. Either way, after more than holding his own in the California League, Yarbrough should be challenging for a back-end rotation spot by the end of the year. There isn’t a ton of upside unless his command goes to another level, but a solid four or five starter is nothing to discount.
And last but not least, mlb.com names Ryan #12 in the Mariners’ system:
After drafting prep sluggers Alex Jackson and Gareth Morgan early in the 2014 Draft, the Mariners took a more frugal approach in subsequent rounds. In the fourth, they took Yarbrough, a senior from Old Dominion, and signed him for just $40,000. Seattle sent him straight to Class A Advanced Bakersfield for his first full season, where he more than held his own despite missing time with a groin injury.
Yarbrough has thrown harder as a professional than he did in college, as he’ll sit at 91-93 and occasionally bump the mid-90s, all while throwing strikes and working on a downhill plane. His changeup is his best secondary offering, thrown with excellent deception from his three-quarters delivery, and it complements his the action on his fastball. The left-hander’s breaking ball is slurvy and tends to linger up in the zone, though he still has the ability to throw it for a strike. He has outstanding command and generates a good amount of ground-ball outs.
Yarbrough could get to the big leagues quickly as a lefty reliever based on the merits of his fastball-slider pairing and command. If he can add some strength, maintain velocity and develop a more consistent breaking ball, he has a chance to become a mid-rotation starter.