Prospect Review: Robinson Yambati

There’s no way to sugar coat it.

Robinson Yambati had a terrible season.

After handling the Arizona Rookie League in 2010, Yambati was a fast riser on prospect lists, even reaching #16 in the Baseball America rankings of Royals prospects and #11 according to Baseball Prospectus prospect expert Kevin Goldstein. With a fastball that hangs around 93, but can hit 96 (and there were reports that this time last year he was touching 98 mph) and a solid slurve, the young pitcher from the Dominican looked like a big upside pitcher.

His 8.7 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 2010 gave statistical merit to the ranking, all for a player who only turned 20 in January.

Now, after a dismal 2011, he’ll see that ranking drop significantly.

 


The talent is still going to be there, though, and he’s young enough to regroup and regain the form that made him the Arizona League’s #3 prospect after last season.

At 6’3″ and with the kind of stuff he possesses, he’ll have ample opportunities to right the ship and get back in line. Yambati made a jump from the Dominican Rookie League to the Arizona League in 2009 and struggled at the higher level. The next year, he dominated.

Year Age Tm Lg ERA G GS IP BF WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2008 17 Royals DOSL 3.09 14 8 55.1 235 1.175 8.0 0.0 2.6 6.5 2.50
2009 18 2 Teams 2 Lgs 5.15 17 6 50.2 237 1.579 10.1 0.7 4.1 6.0 1.48
2009 18 Royals DOSL 0.77 5 5 23.1 96 1.071 6.2 0.4 3.5 6.2 1.78
2009 18 Royals ARIZ 8.89 12 1 27.1 141 2.012 13.5 1.0 4.6 5.9 1.29
2010 19 Royals ARIZ 2.71 14 6 66.1 283 1.161 8.8 0.0 1.6 8.7 5.33
2011 20 Burlington APPY 18.85 8 8 17.2 112 3.113 22.4 3.1 5.6 4.6 0.82
4 Seasons 4.97 53 28 190.0 867 1.458 10.2 0.5 2.9 7.0 2.37
Rk (3 seasons) 6.79 34 15 111.1 536 1.680 12.1 0.7 3.0 7.4 2.46
FRk (2 seasons) 2.40 19 13 78.2 331 1.144 7.4 0.1 2.9 6.4 2.24
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/11/2011.

It could just be a matter of being pushed too high too soon.  Think of the challenges in front of a baseball prospect, especially one who was an international signing at a young age (Yambati was signed at the age of 17): there’s the game of baseball itself, which is one that requires as much preparation and seasoning as it does physical gifts.  Then there’s the adjustment to constant travel. In Yambati’s case, there’s also language and cultural barriers.

So you can’t blame someone for having struggles.  Not to make excuses, but he’s only human.

That being said, 2011 was a bad season.

The numbers make it apparent. 18.85 ERA in 17.2 innings (over eight starts) and 4.6 K/9 versus 5.6 BB/9. Batters hit .469 against him when they put the ball into play.

If it helps, Yambati’s FIP adjusts his ERA to “just” 9.72, which, while not much better, is something to consider.  His numbers were also inflated by a disastrous second start of the year. On June 26, Yambati gave up 12 earned runs in 2.2 innings. Take that out and … well he still had a 15.00 ERA in the other starts.

The Royals shut him down after his last start on July 28, giving him the opportunity to do individual work with instructional staff.

He’s got work to do to get back into the rankings next year, but again, he’s still young, he still has a big arm, and it can’t get much worse, right?

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