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Tyler Ybarra: Story and Interview

Once the Blue Jays selected pitcher Tyler Ybarra, the southpaw from Kansas had an important decision to make. Would he continue on in his amateur career or would he make the jump to the professional ranks? This would be one of the many tough career choices Ybarra would make in his young career.

 Toronto Blue Jays

Twitter: @TYbar23

Height: 6′ 2″, Weight: 210 lb.  Born: December 11, 1989 in Wellington, Kansas

Drafted:  Toronto Blue Jays in the 43rd round of the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft

Favorite Player: Pete Rose

The Tyler Ybarra Story

Getting drafted out of high school always leads to an important decision to be made when it comes to baseball. Once the Blue Jays selected pitcher Tyler Ybarra in the 43rd round of the 2008 draft, the southpaw from Kansas had that very decision to make. Would he continue on in his amateur career or would he make the jump to the professional ranks?

A recent graduate of Wellington High School, Ybarra had his sights set on playing college baseball at Oklahoma after a one year stop at Hutchinson CC. Once the Blue Jays selected him though, Ybarra opted to go to the professional ranks and learn from some of the best instructors in the world.

Ybarra started off his professional career as a 19-year-old with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays. Working out of the bullpen Ybarra totaled 20.1 innings of work in 16 appearances. The left-hander finished 2-4 with an ERA of 6.64 and a WHIP of 1.918. With the help of the Blue Jays staff, Ybarra hoped that he could make adjustments to get better over the course of the following season.

As the 2010 season approached, Ybarra made one of the toughest choices of his life. He decided to walk away from the game of baseball. Instead of playing the game he loved, he moved back home. While back in Kansas, he not only grew as a person, but he also helped with responsibilities at home. For Ybarra its family first and the Blue Jays share that same philosophy with their young players. The Blue Jays were on board with Ybarra’s decisions and would welcome him back when the time was right for him.

After taking one full year off, Ybarra returned and was more determined to prove that the Jays made the right choice by drafting him back in 2008. After working hard in extended spring training, Ybarra made his way back to meaningful games when the Blue Jays assigned him to Bluefield, their rookie level Appalachian League affiliate. Ybarra appeared in 14 games, finishing the season 2-0. Over the course of his 46 innings pitched he struck out 54 batters (10.6/9) and he kept runners off the base-paths with a WHIP of only 1.087. Ybarra’s comeback was a success and he seemed ready for the next challenge the Blue Jays would give him.

The Blue Jays promoted Ybarra to Lansing, their full season A affiliate in the Midwest League to start the 2012 season. Ybarra spent the entire season with the Lugnuts, pitching exclusively out of the bullpen. The hard throwing lefty found success striking out 11.7 batters per nine innings. In 26 appearances out of the Lugnuts bullpen, Ybarra finished the season with 3-2 record and an ERA of 2.27. Once again proving to the Blue Jays brass he was up for the challenge.

In 2013 the Blue Jays once again promoted Ybarra, this time to Dunedin in the Florida State League. Once again the southpaw found success this time as a member of the Dunedin bullpen. Pitching in the most innings of his career, 55, Ybarra finished the season with a minuscule ERA of 1.95. He continued his trend of striking out batters to a tune of 10.6 per nine innings and he did not allow a home run to an opposing batter all season long.

Ybarra has struck out over a batter an inning over his career.

Ybarra has struck out over a batter an inning over his career.

A new year and once again a new challenge awaited Ybarra. The Blue Jays promoted him to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, their AA Eastern League affiliate. The double A level is regarded as a major jump for prospects as there is a mix of prospects and veterans on each teams roster. Ybarra stayed true to the philosophy which got him to this level, he attacked hitters. He saw mixed results, for the first time in four seasons his strike out rate dropped below 10 (7.3/9). He was also haunted a bit by the long ball as AA batters took him out of the yard eight times in 53 innings. A late season injury also derailed him from getting some valuable work on the mound. The left-hander finished the season 4-4 with a 4.42 ERA and a WHIP of 1.358.

Once fully recovered from his injury, the southpaw did not go into winter hibernation. He signed on with the Tiburones de La Guaira of the Venezuela Winter League. As a rookie in the league, Ybarra did not see much action, appearing in just 4 games, but he did get some important on-field experience and instruction.

Spring training is fast approaching but assignments won’t be decided for a few months. It’s a good bet that Ybarra will be attacking opponents with his power fastball and keeping them off-balance with his curve and slider. As he continues his quest to the majors we will continue to update you on his progress. Be sure to follow him on twitter @TYbar23 and follow us at @CTD_Sypien as we will provide updates on Tyler all season long and into the future.

Seven Questions with Tyler Ybarra

1. What was draft day like for you? What were you doing when you got the news the Blue Jays had selected you?

Being drafted was a real honor. It was something that I set out to do for as far as I can remember. I was sitting with my dad watching the computer waiting to see who was being taken. There was a lot of people from my area who had declared for the draft so we were watching and listening for everyone’s name. My name popped up and the Blue Jays gave me a call. I was a pretty special moment to sit there with my dad (whom was drafted by the Reds).  Being drafted was one of those moments where you finally get to a goal in life but now your starting another goal, that’s to get to the major leagues.

2. After you were drafted you decided to turn professional and sign with the Blue Jays. Did you have any amateur options or were you pretty set on signing with the Blue Jays?

I had signed to play with a junior college here in Kansas. I had committed to going to Oklahoma but there was some issues with my transcripts. I would have been required to go to junior college for one year. When I sat down and weighed my options it was pretty clear that I should go ahead and take the opportunity to be a Toronto Blue Jay.

3. After one year of professional baseball you made the difficult decision to take a year off of baseball. What led you to making that decision? Were the Blue Jays supportive?

It was a time when I was turning into a man and a lot of things were happening around me and my family. I had some weight on my shoulders as to some of my responsibilities to my family. I wanted to be someone they could rely on in times of need.  I felt that family was more important than playing baseball. I had originally planned on just taking a couple of months off and then come back and play some catch up. It ended up being longer in the year, however, so we just decided to wait to the next year and start with a clean slate.

The Blue Jays have been supportive of me for my entire career. I can’t say enough about how the approached the whole situation.  When it comes to family and family matters they really do support the players 100%. They understand that family is and always should be number one is anyone’s life. When I got back it was like I never even left as far as player coach relationships. Most of the guys I had been with the year before where still around. I felt like I just jumped right back in except I feel I had an even stronger drive to prove myself again to them that my year off was just a pause in the process and not a set back.

4. For the next few seasons through rookie ball and single A you have had a lot of success. What do you think attributed to your success on the field?

I’d like to attribute my success to a never give up, never back down, mind frame I take out on the field each day. I feel I’m coach-able, I’m able to absorb what the coaches are saying. Success has many factors to it and I feel for me it was a lot of that combination, how bad do you want it and being coach-able.

5. It’s often said that the AA level is one of the biggest challenges for a prospect. Was the 2014 season a challenge for you and how did you think your season went?

I definitely encountered a different type of baseball. I wouldn’t say it was something I was overwhelmed by or it was a shock to my system. Baseball at the AA level is more crisp and clean. Execution is key to every aspect at this level, you’re aware of that on the way up as every level gets a little better. It was a lot about execution for me, making a bunt play, making a solid throw on a ground ball play. You have to be able to consistently make the little plays and make the pitches you need to make in the spots your put in.

I wasn’t really happy with the end result of my season. I felt like I had a lot of good, but I also felt like I had a lot of learning experiences. I like to see everything as not bad, but rather a lesson. It really was a lot of ups and downs. At times I thought I had the ball rolling and I was going to get on a little hot streak and then I would go back out there and have a tough outing. Next thing I knew it was August and my season was over.

6. What pitches do you throw? What’s your mentality coming out of the bullpen?

I throw a fastball, slider and a curveball. When I get on the mound I’m in attack mode. I like to challenge everybody that I face. If they can beat me I want them to beat me with my best stuff. I don’t really go out there to try to trick anyone per-say. I just like it to be a battle of the wills and see who is having a better day that day.

7. You had the opportunity to play winter ball in Venezuela this off-season. Could you share what that experience was like for you?

Winter ball was a very positive experience for me. It was a great time and a real learning experience.  There was a lot of great guys and coaches around me. The atmosphere down there you just cant duplicate it. I got more practice time in than appearances in games, being a first year guy in that league kinda put me in the back of the bullpen. My results were not the greatest but just to get out there and get the experience was important. I was coming off the stress fracture in my leg at the end of the double A season and to get back out on the mound and go through the everyday baseball  routine and know that I was healthy. It was important for me to go out there and get that injury out-of-the-way.

We will have more on Tyler’s winter league experience in an upcoming article.

A Few For Fun

1. Who was your favorite player growing up and why?

Pete Rose was a real big idol of mine when I was growing up. My dad was drafted by the Reds and Pete Rose is Mr. Baseball especially in Cincinnati. The way Pete played, he left it all on the field. It’s funny being a pitcher saying you have a position player as your favorite. Growing up I was a position player as a kid so that’s the guy I looked at.

2. Playing for New Hampshire last year you were on a lot of long bus rides. What were some of your favorite bus ride activities? 

On every bus ride I did one of two things. I would watch Netflix. I would just find a TV show that I could get into and I would watch episode after episode from start to finish. I’d just get lost in that and next thing you know hours had gone by and your six hours down the road. There was also a pretty solid group of guys on the Fishercats that have Spades+ on their phones and we would link up with four guys in one game and play spades. Next thing you know we had played eight or ten games of spades to 500 points we would pass up to eight hours of time on the bus.

3. If you could meet one person and just pick their mind or have a conversation with them who would it be?

I’m torn between two, probably two of the best athletes in their respective sports. I’d like to meet Bo Jackson and see what it would like to be to be who he is. He played two sports and was great at both of them. He could have been one of the best at both sports barring his injury. His will to win was exceptional. Along those same lines I’d also like to meet Micheal Jordan. I’m a huge Michael Jordan fan and he will always be the best basketball player in the world. It would be nice just to sit down and talk to him and really just let him do the talking and soak up everything he has to say. It would really be an honor to me.

A special thanks to Tyler Ybarra for taking some time out of his schedule to chat with us. We look forward to following him all season long and into the future. We will also feature more of our interview with Tyler in a future piece on the Caribbean winter leagues.  Please remember to give him a follow on twitter @TYbar23 and like Chasing MLB Dreams on Facebook and follow us on twitter @CTD_Sypien as we continue to feature and follow all of our featured players as they chase their way to the major leagues.


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