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Rays Top 50 Prospects: No 21, Yonny Chirinos

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MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

With a bump in the road when he reached Double-A in 2016, many had written off right-hander Yonny Chirinos from becoming a starter and considered him a viable pen option instead. In 2017 he proved those who thought so wrong, and put himself among the three best starting options to call on when required in 2018. After all, there’s a reason this happened:

No.21, RHP Yonny Enrique Chirinos, 24 years old

Born: December 26th, 1993 in Bachaquero, Venezuela

Height/Weight: 6’2” 170 lbs Bats/Throws: R/R

Signed: by the Rays for $100,000 in 2012

Twitter handle: NA

Twitter profile statement: NA

Baseball America Rankings

  • Ranked as the 23rd best Rays prospect post-2017

DRB Writers ranking

  • High: 11th
  • Low: 33rd

Yonny Chirinos: Abilities

  • Solid four seam and two seam fastballs, 92-94 MPH
  • Change up with fade (low-to-mid-80s)
  • Slider (low-to-mid-80s)
  • Plus control and command
  • Throws strikes with all four pitches, trusts his stuff, isn’t afraid to pitch to contact

Grades for ‘18 (Pipeline): FB: 55 | SL: 55 | CH: 50 | Ctl: 60 | Overall: 45

  • Abilities notes: The one consistency you’ll hear and see with Chirinos is his relentlessness in working low in the zone, inducing a ton of ground balls and keeping his infielders busy in the process. Also known for bouncing one in there occasionally, making his catcher work.

Joined the Rays by way of....

The international free agency route, as he signed for $100,000 in 2012. He, along with Jose Mujica ($1M) and Jose Alvarado ($50K) represents the first of a flurry of international talents set to bless Tropicana — and the Rays — with a boost in high-end performances. One other possibility from that signing period down the road includes catcher David Rodriguez who should be working in Double-A this season.

Latest Transaction: selected the contract from Durham Bulls November 20th, 2017

Note The Rays spent over $4M on the international market in 2012, and the four noted above point to how worthwhile those investments can be. When two of your best four promotion-ready starting options, and one of your relievers, cost you so little and are controllable for a long time, you’re in a good place.

MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Facts, Honors, and Awards

his combination of solid stuff and big-league ready control makes him more able to contribute immediately than the majority of candidates on Rule 5 unprotected lists

  • Through his entire minors career, has never allowed a WHIP higher than 1.29, managing an overall WHIP of 1.08.
  • Impressive in 2017 by keeping RHB to a .209 average with a WHIP of 0.90.
  • One of the better reasons he was able to earn pitcher of the year in the Rays system was the fact that he averaged the most innings per start, surpassing 6 IP on 22 occasions and averaging 6.5 innings per start — a stark contrast to Brent Honeywell who averaged 5.2 innings per start.
  • Named to Baseball America’s AAA all-star team in 2017 and named pitcher of the week in Triple-A by Milb.com on two occasions.
  • Has already shown us some good things this spring, as noted by Marc Topkin:

Yonny Chirinos, making his debut as a Ray, tossed a pair of scoreless innings. He allowed an infield single to former Ray Tim Beckham to start the game then retired the next six.

Stats

Yonny Chirinos 2017

GP 27
GP 27
GS 26
IP 168.1
W 13
L 5
Sv (SvO) 0 (0)
H 138
BB 26
SO 141
HR 15
AvgA 0.227
Whip 0.970
BAbip 0.265
LOB% 74.0%
GB% 50.5%
FB% 29.0%
HR/FB% 8.5%

Stats Notes: Fields his position extremely well, committing only 1 error in his career while completing 52 assists through over 474 IP.

Interesting Comparison: Ervin Santana

Both Santana and Chirinos are 6’2” 175 lbs and both have similar arsenals at the same age — aside from the split-finger that Chirinos added in late 2017. Instead of a split-finger, Santana added a sinker in 2013.

Santana broke into MLB at 22 years old, a slightly younger age, using a 93 MPH fastball, slider and change up combination that he controlled very well. While he only spent a short time in the minors before being called up, Santana managed to keep hitters to a .243 average against and maintained a 1.20 whip through 58 IP between Double-A and Triple-A. Chirinos, a year older, held hitters to a .227 average and 0.97 WHIP — also between Double-A and Triple-A.

Just as with Chirinos, Santana wasn’t noted as a strike out king and more for keeping the ball low, allowing few HRs and maintaining good ground ball rates as a result. Although he was younger when called up, Santana had 480 IP under his belt at the time of his call-up while Chirinos now has 474 IP.

Santana has been a successful pitcher through the majority of his career, reaching a high of 5.5 WAR in 2008 and working mostly between 2 and 3.2 WAR the remainder of the time. I would not bet against Chirinos managing something similar health willing.

Another solid comparison — noted by JT Morgan — would be Phillies starting pitcher Ben Lively who kicked off his MLB career in 2017 after also managing a sub-1 WHIP between Double-A and Triple-A in 2016 (0.93). He bounced back and forth between Triple-A and managed a 1.286 whip through 15 MLB starts.

Notes for 2018 and beyond

If you lack faith in Chirinos, to steal a line from Darth Vader, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” All he’s ever done is perform among the best at every level he’s ever been in (aside from one half season hiccup), and he hasn’t received anywhere near the recognition he deserves from those who do the rankings.

Yes, the Rays system is loaded — no doubt about it. But when you out-pitch guys like Brent Honeywell and Ryan Yarbrough at the Triple-A level and your organization names you the top pitcher in the system, you should be noticed, right? Yet, because he’s a control and command dependent pitcher, it seems, many continue to doubt his abilities will translate well in the majors.

No outlets have him in their top-20 Rays prospects. How is that possible? Well, it must be based primarily on expectations that he’ll struggle to perform in MLB. Time will tell, but...

I’m here to tell you this: I have faith that he will exceed most — if not all — expectations. Here’s why:

First and foremost, Yonny is an outstanding pitcher. He has above-average touch and feel for all of his pitches, and when he does miss, he does so in the right areas (for the most part). When he gets into trouble, as all pitchers do, he’s able to get out of it with ground balls and badly hit balls. And although he will never lead the league in strike outs, he also misses enough bats (22.0 % K% in 2017) to finish guys off when he has to and already walks very few (4% BB% in 2017), both items adding to his effectiveness.

As well as the great command and control, Yonny should be noted for doing all of the little things well defensively and has poise well beyond his years on the mound. It’s rare to see any pitcher work through that many minor league innings making so few mistakes. To provide a fairly compelling example, HOF pitcher Greg Maddux manned the position as well as any and only threw a similar number of minor league innings with 491.1 IP and he made 5 errors over that time.

Playoff time? No problem, as Yonny was integral to the Bulls championship, managing 12 innings through his two starts, allowing 10 hits and 3 walks (1.08 WHIP), allowing only a single run (0.75 ERA) while striking out five. Even at the end of a season that saw him pitch 168.1 innings - 40 more than his previous career high, Chirinos was outstanding.

When Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon went down to injury, it hurt the system’s depth, there’s no doubting that. However, there’s also no doubt Chirinos may very well have been the next pitcher called upon to start if and when needed. There’s a reason the Rays gave him the minor league pitcher of the year award, they thought that highly of his performance in 2017.

Look for Yonny to be at the Trop shortly, and enjoy his craftiness. It’s a lot of fun to watch and should happen fairly quickly.

I’ve been a huge fan of his since 2015, and he’s certainly done nothing to dissuade me since!

Yonny Chirinos: Spotlight Videos

Recap and links of previously listed DRB Top 55 Rays Prospects

*Note: rankings were adjusted and reflect recent additions to the system - it is now a Top 55 list