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Rays Top 50 Prospects: No.16, Ryan Yarbrough

MLB: Spring Training-Minnesota Twins at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Our next prospect has less raw power but more MLB-ready polish.

No.16, LHP Ryan Yarbrough, 26 years old

Born: December 31st, 1991, in Lakeland, Florida

Height/Weight: 6’5” 205 lbs Bats/Throws: R/L

Signed: by the Mariners after being selected in the 4th rd of the 2014 MLB draft

Twitter handle: @RyanYarbrough2

Twitter profile statement: “LHP in the Tampa Bay Rays Organization. Lakeland, FL #ODUbaseball

Baseball America Rankings

  • Ranked as the 9th best Mariners prospect post-2014
  • Ranked as the 14th best Mariners prospect post-2015
  • Ranked as the 12th best Mariners prospect post-2016
  • Ranked as the 26th best Rays prospect post-2017
  • Ranked as the 12th best NorthWest League prospect post-2014
  • Ranked as the 20th best California League prospect post-2015

DRB Writers ranking

  • High: 15th
  • Low: 28th

Ryan Yarbrough: Abilities

  • Above-average command
  • Plus-plus change up
  • Fastball that doesn’t have high octane but works very effectively to induce ground outs
  • Slider that’s ahead of his curve
  • The plus command and change up combination make him just as effective vs both LHB and RHB

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

  • Abilities notes: Yarbrough has done nothing but prove doubters wrong and many continue to under rate him despite having two plus pitches and plus command. Sure, it would be nice to have that great third pitch, but with those two pitches and his size he should be given every opportunity to continue on as a starter.

Joined the Rays by way of...

Trade, along with Mallex Smith and Carlos Vargas in return for Drew Smyly. At the time of the trade, I supported the notion that just based on Yarby for Smyly the Rays had won the trade and stand by that today (mainly due to Smyly’s health issues). Smith and Vargas are just icing on the cake at this point.

Latest Transaction: activated from the temporarily inactive list Sept 6th, 2017.

Note - For those following the trade tree, Smyly was acquired as part of the deal that also brought Willy Adames from Detroit to Tampa in return for David Price. That makes the current returns on Price as Adames, Smith, Vargas, and Yarbrough. Needless to say, the Rays have done well to get max returns out of the Price trade.

Facts, Honors, and Awards

  • I wrote an article welcoming Yarby to the Rays after the trade was made.
  • He was added to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him in Rule 5 draft.
  • Among International League pitchers in 2017, Yarbrough finished 3rd in IP (157.1), 5th in K/9 (9.10), 6th in K/BB (4.08), 7th in average against (.241), 7th in Whip (1.16), 5th in LOB (77.3 %), and 4th in xFIP (3.32) - but sure, let’s keep doubting his abilities as a starter (insert sarcasm).
  • While he’s been very effective overall, Yarby’s been particularly effective vs LHB, keeping them to a .217 average against and 1.07 WHIP.
  • Ryan was an organizational all-star for the Mariners in 2016 and for the Rays in 2017.
  • Was named pitcher of the week twice in 2016 while in AA and twice again in 2017 while in AAA.
  • Was a mid-season and post-season all-star in 2016.
  • Ryan knows what he has to do to be effective,

“I’m not trying to strikeout a certain number of guys,” Yarbrough said. “I’m just trying to keep myself in good situations. Everything felt like it was working, my slider or curve, I was able to do some damage, which was nice, especially against a lineup like that.”

  • The look of a AAA champion here,


Ryan Yarbrough 2017

GP 26
GP 26
GS 26
IP 157.1
W 13
L 6
Sv (SvO) 0 (0)
H 144
BB 39
SO 159
HR 8
AvgA 0.243
Whip 1.160
BAbip 0.296
LOB% 77.3%
GB% 46.4%
FB% 32.9%
HR/FB% 14.1%

Stats Notes: After a long and gruelling year, Yarbrough managed 14.1 innings in the playoffs and showed everyone why he should remain a starter, winning two games while allowing only 8 hits and 3 walks while striking out 11 (.163 average against and 0.77 whip).

Interesting Comparison: Danny Duffy

Duffy stands about two inches shorter than Yarbrough but both are LHP and both weigh in at 205 lbs. When Duffy broke into MLB, he was also primarily a fastball-change guy who depended on off-speed abilities to be effective.

During his first taste of MLB, Duffy averaged just over 93 MPH and worked a lower 80s change up, which is exactly where we anticipate Yarbrough working in 2018. Just as with Yarbrough, Duffy was noted for above-average command that allowed his stuff to play well.

The main difference between the two (aside from a better downward plane for Yarbrough) is that Duffy didn’t use a slider much until his 4th year in MLB, using the curve as his other secondary piece to the fastball-change combo. Meanwhile, Yarbrough is using his curve less than his slider to complement his fastball-change combo.

Before MLB in 2011 for 20 starts, Duffy managed 8 starts in AAA and put up the following,

10.29 K/9, 2.14 BB/9, 1.07 HR/9, .234 AvgA, 1.12 Whip, .305 BAbip, 76.7 % LOB, 3.97 FIP

Meanwhile, over the course of an entire season (26 starts), Yarby put up the following,

9.10 K/9, 2.23 BB/9, 1.14 HR/9, .241 AvgA, 1.16 Whip, .296 BAbip, 77.3 % LOB, 3.87 FIP

Their productions was almost identical aside from a slightly higher K/9 on Duffy’s part. Yet, Duffy gets accolades and Yarbrough is thought of by most as a relief candidate? I don’t get that at all.

Notes for 2018 and beyond

Yarbrough is ready to show MLB what he’s got. As with any prospect, it’s always tough to know exactly how it’ll turn out, and prospects will break your heart - we know this to be true, but there’s nothing for him to prove in AAA. And that’s a great asset for the Rays to use.

We’re talking about the guy who won Southern League pitcher of the year honors for his 2016 season. We’re talking about an integral part of the AAA championship team Durham Bulls in 2017. We’re talking about a guy who over the last two years in AA and AAA respectively put up the following numbers,

25 W, 10 L, 285.2 IP, 3.21 ERA, .236 AvgA, 1.14 whip, 8.13 K/9, 2.21 BB/9, 3.61 FIP

Many have decided that Yarbrough belongs in the pen and there’s no doubt he’d be effective in that role, possibly taking on a two or three inning relief role. However, there’s something to be said for having starters ready to roll when things happen - and they will happen.

The Rays are currently without both Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon on the depth chart and are expecting Nate Eovaldi, a two-time TJ survivor, to take on a full season. They’re also toying with a four man rotation with a pen day when a fifth starter is required.

Whether it’s as part of the pen day core and the pen to begin the season and/or as a starter when needed during the season, Yarbrough will be ready. And as the only LHP among a group that includes Yonny Chirinos, Austin Pruitt, and Matt Andriese, he may have an edge - to some degree - on a rotation spot at some point in 2018.

Yarbrough’s ceiling is an intriguing one because it probably is better than what’s been previously projected. As he’s done his entire career, he will seek to prove doubters wrong and establish himself as one of the more effective LHP in the game. With the Duffy comp in mind, you can see that the Rays may have a solid mid-rotation starter in Ryan Yarborough.

Ryan Yarbrough: 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