Our next installment in our off-season look at top prospects from the Valley League is Ryan Yarbrough, who pitched (along with Austin Gomber) for the 2012 Luray Wranglers. (2012 was the last season for the Wranglers. Can anyone name the other five players from that team who played for a major league organization?)
The 6-foot-5 lefty has been a fun success story, as he’s slowly grown into a (probable) major league pitcher over the past 7 years. Now, he’s an Organization All-Star, and one of the Tampa Bay Rays top prospects. Let’s take a look:
- 2011- Santa Fe Community College: 0-0, 7.79 in 17 1/3 innings, 1.96 WHIP, 6.8 BB/9, 10.9 K/9.
- 2012- Luray: 3-3, 8.42 in 25 2/3 IP, 2.14 WHIP, 5.3 BB/9, 6.7 K/9
- 2013, now attending Old Dominion: 4-4, 3.27 in 82 2/3 IP, 1.25 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 6.5 K/9
- 2014, ODU: 6-7, 4.50 in 86 IP, 1.31 WHIP, 1.6 BB/9, 6.7 K/9
- College performance showed enough to be picked in the 4th round of the 2014 draft by Seattle.
- 2014, pro ball: Everett of the Northwest League (16 games), and Pulaski of the Appalachian League (2 games): 0-1, 1.27 in 42 2/3 IP, 0.727 WHIP, 1.1 BB/9, 12.2 K/9. He was ATVL’s Short Season Pitcher of the Year.
- 2015, three different levels: Bakersfield (California League, 16 games), Clinton (Midwest League, 2 games), and the Arizona League (4 games). Totaled 4-8, 4.10 in 96 2/3 IP, with a 1.366 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, and 8.2 K/9. He struggled with injuries this season.
- 2016, at Jackson of the Southern League: 12-4, 2.95 in 128 1/3 IP, with a 1.114 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9, and 6.9 K/9. ATVL’s Double-A Pitcher of the Year, and the Southern League’s Most Outstanding Pitcher.
- 2017, after a trade to Tampa Bay’s organization, assigned to Triple-A Durham in the International League: 13-6, 3.43 in 157 1/3 IP, 1.163 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9, and 9.1 K/9. (Spoiler alert- Ryan is a strong candidate for Triple-A Pitcher of the Year- to be named later… February? March?)
All of this puts Ryan right on the cusp of a major league call up. It also parks him on some prospect lists, even with a very strong Tampa Bay minor league system.
First of all, milb.com named him an Organization All-Star, obviously at left handed starter:
He may not have the wipeout stuff as [Brent] Honeywell, but Yarbrough — acquired from the Mariners in the offseason — put up sparkling numbers in his first season with the Rays. The deceptive southpaw led the International League with 159 strikeouts and ranked third with 157 1/3 innings.
And mlb.com currently has Ryan as the Rays’ #25 prospect, with the following writeup:
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 45
The Mariners took Yarbrough, a senior from Old Dominion, in the fourth round and signed him for just $40,000 in 2014. But after a quick ascent of Seattle’s system that culminated with him winning the Southern League’s Most Outstanding Pitcher award in 2016, after he tied for the circuit lead in wins (12) and ranked second in both ERA (2.95) and WHIP (1.11), Yarbrough was dealt with Mallex Smith and Carlos Vargas to the Rays in exchange for Drew Smyly in early January.
Yarbrough will sit at 91-93 mph and occasionally bump the mid-90s, all while throwing strikes and working on a downhill plane to produce consistent ground-ball outs. His changeup is his best secondary offering, thrown with excellent deception from his three-quarters delivery, and it complements 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.
Yarbrough could get to the big leagues quickly as a lefty reliever based on the merits of his fastball-slider pairing, which helped him limit same-sided hitters to a paltry .183 average in 2016. But if he can add more strength, maintain his velocity better and develop a more consistent breaking ball, Yarbrough has a chance to become a back-of-the-rotation starter.
His future looks bright, with, hopefully, a call up to the majors some time in 2018.