The Braves announced that Huascar Ynoa underwent Tommy John surgery this afternoon. The hard-throwing righty had been on optional assignment to Triple-A Gwinnett, but he hadn’t pitched in over two weeks.
Originally a member of the Twins organization, Ynoa was dealt to Atlanta as a rookie-ball prospect in 2017. He reached the majors a couple seasons thereafter, debuting late in 2019. After a couple seasons bouncing on and off the active roster, Ynoa looked to have broken out as a rotation building block early last year. He earned a spot in the starting five and posted a 3.02 ERA with excellent strikeout and walk numbers through his first 44 2/3 innings.
Ynoa’s season was knocked off track in mid-May, however. Following a rough outing, he punched the dugout in frustration. Ynoa fractured a bone in his throwing hand and lost two months to injury. He returned in August but didn’t pitch especially well down the stretch, posting a 5.05 ERA over nine outings. He was relegated to bullpen work in the postseason, and he was diagnosed with inflammation in his throwing shoulder during the NL Championship Series. That ended his campaign, and Ynoa came into 2022 in competition for a rotation spot.
While he secured a spot in the starting five out of the gate, Ynoa was hit hard in his first two outings. Atlanta optioned him back to Gwinnett at that point, and he’s spent most of the year there. Aside from a brief major league recall in mid-August — during which time he spent three days on the active roster and didn’t make an appearance — he’s played the rest of the season with the Stripers. The 24-year-old has started 17 of his 18 outings, pitching to a 5.68 ERA through 77 2/3 innings. Ynoa has punched out an above-average 25.8% of batters faced and induced grounders at a solid 48.1% clip, but he’s also been far too prone to both home runs and walks.
The emergence of Spencer Strider and Kyle Wright and the deadline acquisition of Jake Odorizzi combined to squeeze Ynoa out of the MLB plans. He’d still been on hand as a depth option with a reasonable amount of upside, but the Braves will now have to navigate a hit to that depth. Given the timing of the procedure, it’s likely Ynoa will miss all of next season as well. Tommy John surgery recoveries typically take upwards of 14 months, making it unreasonable to expect he’ll be able to factor in at any point before 2024.
Unfortunately for Ynoa, that he suffered the injury while in Gwinnett means he won’t immediately land on the major league injured list. Players on the minor league IL aren’t paid at an MLB rate, nor do they collect major league service time. It’s possible the Braves eventually recall Ynoa and place him on the major league 60-day IL, which would remove him from the 40-man roster. That’d involve paying him at the MLB rate, but the hurler will be paid a Triple-A salary unless that happens.
The 2022 campaign was Ynoa’s final minor league option year. That means the Braves will either need to carry him on the MLB injured list to start next season or make him available to other teams via trade or release waivers.