Some non-great news for the A's today. Baseball America's Ben Badler:
- Michael Ynoa threw his first professional pitch this year, but it also appears that the 18-year-old righthander has thrown his last pitch of the year as well.
Ynoa, who signed with the Athletics for an international record $4.25 million in 2008, is scheduled to have elbow surgery on Aug. 24 that is expected to be Tommy John surgery, according to several tweets from reporters out of Oakland. The procedure is expected to cause him to miss the entire 2011 season.
The injury could also make for an interesting decision in a couple of years. Ynoa won't pitch next year, but the A's will have to decide whether to protect him from the Rule 5 draft after the 2012 season. At that point, even in a best-case scenario, Ynoa will likely have only pitched at the low Class A level in his first year after surgery, assuming no further setbacks.This is why 16-year-old pitchers get $4.25 million and 21-year-old pitchers get two or three times that much. Fortunately, the success rate of Tommy John surgery is fairly high, and there's a good chance that Ynoa will be pitching again in 2012 and throwing 95 again. Which doesn't mean he'll be ready to pitch well. Not with the grand total of nine professional innings under his belt. Even assuming that he's perfectly healthy upon his return and stays perfectly healthy, it's hard to imagine Ynoa reaching the majors (in a meaningful way) until 2014 or '15 ... seven years after he signed with the A's.
Even so, my guess is that if Ynoa shows anything at all in 2012, the A's will protect him. Because if they don't, some team that lost 100 games in 2011 will happily scoop Ynoa up and stash him on their roster for six months. Not because of any perceived ability. But because a Dominican pitcher who got a $4.25 million signing bonus is like a high draft pick: they get extra credit for that pedigree. Just as Mark Prior continues to show up every so often, I imagine we'll be seeing Michael Ynoa's name on our screens for quite some time. Even if he never escapes the bus leagues.