A Cautionary Tale in Cedar Rapids

Kernels fans and Twins fans, alike, can’t help but be excited about the number of highly rated prospects included in the initial Cedar Rapids roster this season.

Of the 25 active members of the Kernels’ Opening Day roster, 14 of them received signing bonuses in excess of $100,000 when they signed their names to their first contract with the Twins organization. Altogether, those 14 players signed on for over $12 million in signing bonus money. Three current players received $1 million or more to sign. 

With all of that high-ceiling talent, it’s certainly understandable for fans to be excited, not only for the likely fortunes of the Kernels this season, but for the future of the parent Minnesota Twins a couple of years from now. Fans will get a look at one of those million-dollar players, Hudson Boyd, when he takes the mound Friday night in his first start of the season for the Kernels. He reportedly got $1 million from the Twins.

Boyd’s counterpart, Beloit Snappers starting pitcher Michael Ynoa, provides a couterbalance for fans, however. His story serves as a reminder that, in the end, large signing bonuses and a player’s desire and work ethic provide no guarantee of a mercurial rise through the organization and a trip to the Big Leagues.

Ynoa was signed, as a 16-year-old, with the Oakland Athletics organization for a then-club record $4.25 million in 2008 out of the Dominican Republic. He was widely regarded as one of the top Latin-American prospects that year.

Snappers pitcher Michael Ynoa (photo: Chris Lockard/Scout.com)
Snappers pitcher Michael Ynoa (photo: Chris Lockard/Scout.com)

Since inking his deal, Ynoa has thrown a total of just under 40 innings for A’s affiliates. To say he’s had injury issues is a considerable understatement.

He missed his first year with the A’s organization with a strained elbow. He made three starts in 2010 before being shut down and undergoing Tommy John surgery, which essentially cost him his 2011 season. He threw about 30 innings in 2012. His start to the 2013 Spring Training was delayed by a case of Chicken Pox.

The Athletics organization certainly has not given up on right-hander. He reportedly continues to throw hard, but his inactivity has resulted in some understandable control issues. The team added him to their 40-man roster this past offseason, rather than risk losing him in Major League Baseball’s Rule 5 draft, in which players with several years of minor league experience can be drafted by other organizations if they are not yet on their team’s 40-man roster.

Ynoa’s status as a top-level Major League prospect has been eliminated by his health issues. But the A’s appear to believe he can still eventually contribute at the Major League level if he can start harnessing his velocity and find some control. Of course, staying healthy would help, too.

In the mean time, Ynoa serves as a cautionary tale for those fans that might look in to the Kernels dugout and assume that all of that high-ceiling talent already have their tickets to Target Field punched. Even with their impressive talent, getting to put on a Major League uniform will require skill, dedication… and a fair amount of luck.

– JC