Ynoa turns into a leading man for Topes - Albuquerque Journal

Ynoa turns into a leading man for Topes

Isotope Rafael Ynoa records a base hit during Sunday's game. Adolphe Pierre-Louis/JOURNAL
Isotope Rafael Ynoa records a base hit during Sunday’s game.
Adolphe Pierre-Louis/JOURNAL

Rafael Ynoa and his teammates probably could have used his mom’s home cooking instead of that served in the Albuquerque Isotopes clubhouse the past nine days.

While a 4-3 loss on Sunday to the visiting New Orleans Zephyrs was loss No. 6 in a row for the Isotopes, and 10 of the past 12, Ynoa continues to string together another solid showing at the plate, primarily as the team’s leadoff hitter.

The 28-year-old infielder has come into his own the past few seasons due, he says at least in part, to the success and confidence he’s found each offseason playing for his hometown Aguilas Cibaenas in Santiago, Dominican Republic, in the Dominican Winter League.

“I stay at my home when I’m there — there with my mom and my family all there together,” said Ynoa, who added his mom’s rice and beans are as good as it gets for a pre-game meal.

“Yeah, she can cook. Very good cook.”

Ynoa is in his 11th season of professional baseball after starting in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization as an 18-year-old in 2006.

He played with the Dodgers for eight seasons. Now in his third with the Colorado Rockies organization, Ynoa is hitting .280 this season, seeing that batting average sneak up four spots over the team’s otherwise dismal recent eight-game home stand.

He shares the Pacific Coast League lead for doubles (14), and is hitting .305 with eight doubles when leading off an inning this season (he has been Albuquerque’s primary leadoff hitter this season).

“Raffy has always been able to swing the bat,” Isotopes manager Glenallen Hill said. “Hitting him in the leadoff position gives him an opportunity to slow the game down. He’s a guy that has really good hand-eye coordination and sometimes that can get him into trouble because he can hit a lot of different pitches that are not in the strike zone.”

The evolution of his approach at the plate, says the switch-hitting Ynoa, has been the result of simply getting more and more experience. And much of that, the statistics show, started when he became a big-time player in the Dominican Winter League while many others were taking the offseason to rest.

Through his first seven professional seasons, including three where he was a seldom-used player in the Dominican Winter League, Ynoa averaged 287.4 combined at-bats per year (2,012 in all) at all levels of baseball and hit .264.

In the previous three seasons (2013-15), when his role with Aguilas Cibaenas ramped up dramatically, Ynoa averaged 588.3 at bats per year (1,765 in all) and hit .287. In those three years, 436 at bats came in winter league.

“The more you play, the better you get,” said Ynoa, who also said his health and conditioning is much better today than when he first started professional baseball.

“Since I’ve got out of the Dodgers (organization), it’s been a lot of at-bats. I keep playing (after the Isotopes season) in winter ball. My first year with the Rockies when I got called up, I think I had like 500 at-bats and then 100 in the Dominican.”

That year was 2014 and it was actually 494 at bats with the Rockies organization (427 with Triple-A Colorado Springs and 67 more over a 19-game call up with the Rockies). Then he went home for the winter and had 164 more at-bats with Aguilas Cibaenas, where he hit .293. In 2013 with Aguilas Cibaenas, he won a batting title, hitting .333 over 44 games.

“The more pitchers you face, they get you better,” Ynoa said. “You want to be the best hitter you can be. Especially in the Dominican, it’s hard to play because you have to face a lot of pitchers. One day you can face a guy from low A throwing 100 (mph) and you don’t know where the ball is going and then you can face a 45-year-old pitcher throwing a lot of changeups. That can help you because you have to make a lot of adjustments right at that moment. I think that helped me a lot.”

The hope is that heavy usage approach to the game will help him get another regular shot at the big leagues. He’s played in 91 games over the past two years with the Rockies, hitting .289 and showing the defensive versatility to play second base, shortstop, third base or outfield for the big league club, same has he has this year for the Isotopes.

“I’m just waiting for the opportunity,” Ynoa said. “I’m keeping myself ready for anything.”

Topes Today, May 23

at Omaha

5:35 p.m.

Radio: 610 AM

Probable starters: Isotopes RHP Shane Carle (3-4, 6.64) at Storm Chasers RHP Luke Farrell (2-0, 3.86)

Sunday: The Isotopes squandered another solid starting pitching performance with untimely miscues and a poor showing at the plate in a 4-3 loss to the New Orleans Zephyrs in front of an announced crowd of 5,428.

It was Albuquerque’s sixth consecutive loss and 10th in its past 12 games.

Starting pitcher Jeff Hoffman allowed one hit through his first four innings and retired 10 straight before allowing three runs, three hits and four walks over his next 1⅔ innings. His final line was 5⅔ innings, three earned runs, four hits, four walks and a season-high seven strikeouts.

PCL STANDINGS

American Northern    W    L    PCT▼    GB

Oklahoma City (LAD)    24    17    .585    –

Omaha Storm (KC)    24    18    .571    0.5

Colorado Springs (MIL)    18    21    .462    5.0

Iowa (CHC)    18    23    .439    6.0

American Southern    W    L    PCT▼    GB

Round Rock (TEX)    23    19    .548    –

Nashville (OAK)    23    20    .535    0.5

New Orleans (MIA)    19    23    .452    4.0

Memphis (STL)    17    23    .425    5.0

Pacific Northern    W    L    PCT▼    GB

Tacoma (SEA)    27    16    .628    –

Reno (ARI)    19    23    .452    7.5

Fresno (HOU)    17    25    .405    9.5

Sacramento (SF)    17    27    .386    10.5

Pacific Southern    W    L    PCT▼    GB

Las Vegas (NYM)    24    18    .571    –

Salt Lake (LAA)    23    18    .561    0.5

El Paso (SD)    22    20    .524    2.0

Albuquerque (COL)    20    24    .455    5.0

Sunday

Sacramento 3, Nashville 2

Salt Lake 6, Oklahoma City 4

New Orleans 4, Albuquerque 3

Memphis 8, Fresno 1

Round Rock 16, El Paso 7

Las Vegas 6, Colorado Springs 4

Omaha 3, Reno 0

Tacoma 8, Iowa 1

■ Today

Reno at New Orleans, 5:00 p.m.

Albuquerque at Omaha, 5:35 p.m.

El Paso at Iowa, 5:38 p.m.

Tacoma at Round Rock, 6:05 p.m.

Memphis at Salt Lake, 6:35 p.m.

Oklahoma City at Fresno, 7:35 p.m.

Colorado Springs at Sacramento, 8:05 p.m.

Nashville at Las Vegas, 8:05 p.m.

Tuesday

Reno at New Orleans, 5:00 p.m.

Albuquerque at Omaha, 5:35 p.m.

El Paso at Iowa, 5:38 p.m.

Tacoma at Round Rock, 6:05 p.m.

Memphis at Salt Lake, 6:35 p.m.

Oklahoma City at Fresno, 7:35 p.m.

Colorado Springs at Sacramento, 8:05 p.m.

Nashville at Las Vegas, 8:05 p.m.

Sunday—Isotopes Park

Zephyrs 4, isotopes 3

NEW ORLEANS         ALBUQUERQUE

ab    r    h    bi         ab    r    h    bi

Wilson RF     5     0     1    1     Ynoa 3B     4     0     1    0

Kelly 1B     4     1     0    0     Tauchman CF     4     0     1    0

Andino SS     4     0     1    0     Cardullo LF     3     2     1    1

Hood CF     4     0     0    0     Paulsen 1B     4     1     0    0

Juengel 3B     3     1     1    1     Patterson RF     4     0     0    0

Galloway LF     3     1     1    1     Casteel C     4     0     1    1

Soto 2B     4     0     1    1     Smalling SS     3     0     0    1

Nieto C     3     1     0    0     Wong 2B     3     0     0    0

Narveson P     2     0     0    0     Hoffman P     2     0     0    0

Ellington P     0     0     0    0     Moll P     0     0     0    0

Ege P     0     0     0    0     Cuevas PH     1     0     0    0

Motte P     0     0     0    0

Castro P     0     0     0    0

Totals                32 4     5     4     Totals           32 3 4 3

New Orleans    000    003    001—4  5  3

Albuquerque    000    201    000—3  4  1

E—Narveson (1), Juengel 2 (4), Smalling (3). DP—New Orleans 1, Albuquerque 1. LOB—New Orleans 7, Albuquerque 4. 2B—Andino (6), Juengel (6), Soto (1). HR—Cardullo (5). SB—Kelly (1), Galloway (15). CS—Ynoa (2). S—Smalling.

 IP    H    R    ER    BB    SO

New Orleans

Narveson     6     4     3     1     1     4

Ellington     1     0     0     0     0     1

Ege (W, 1-2)     2     0     0     0     0     3

Albuquerque

Hoffman     5 2/3     4     3     3     4     7

Moll     1 1/3     0     0     0     0     1

Motte     1     0     0     0     0     0

Castro (L, 0-3)     1     1     1     1     2     1

WP—Narveson. T—2:36. A—5,428.

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