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October 9, 2018 at 9:10 AM

Scouting Scratch: Yoan Aybar

FORT MYERS, Fla - Left-hander Yoan Aybar was once seen as a raw but intriguing center field prospect. But after signing for $450,000 in 2013 and four seasons in which he failed to distinguish himself at the plate, Aybar moved to the mound in Spring Training 2018 and very quickly has established himself as one of the most intriguing bullpen arms in the Red Sox system. 

In his mound debut split between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and a couple appearances with short-season A Lowell, he posted a 4.13 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 14 walks in 28 1/3 innings. While the line may not stand out, it was impressive for a young player who had spent four years as an outfielder, and he had some buzz coming into my Instructs look at him.

Aybar is still on the skinny side and doesn’t look like he will add much size. He is listed at 6-foot-2, 173 pounds, which looks accurate, and he has retained the athleticism he showed in the outfield. Aybar throws from a three-quarters arm slot with a simple delivery that has some effort. 

His best pitch is his fastball, which sat 93-97 mph and touched 98 mph over his two innings of work. His velocity tailed off some in his second inning, but in his first inning it was 95-98 mph. The pitch is straight and his command has a ways to go, but he has plus-plus velocity that already can blow away hitters, as he showed in this outing, getting five swinging strikes with the pitch. Another area where he could—and likely should, with reps—improve is his feel and comfort with the pitch, as he was visibly more comfortable throwing it to left-handed hitters than right-handed hitters.

Aybar’s secondary pitches are still a work in progress. Aybar’s slider was his best secondary, showing short, horizontal break at 85-88 mph. The pitch showed inconsistent shape, but he threw it from the same arm slot as his fastball and it flashed average potential. His changeup lags well behind that pitch and he only threw it once at 86 mph. The pitch was firm, and he lacks feel and confidence in it. In a bullpen role, development of that pitch isn’t vital, though it would be useful as a pitch to throw right-handed hitters.

Aybar is very raw, but if you dream you can see the starter kit for a potential late-inning reliever. He has arm strength from the left side that you can’t teach—unsurprising given the plus arm he showed in the outfield—and has already made considerable progress over the six or so months he has been pitching.

Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.