TCN 2023 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect #50 – Nelfy Ynfante

photo: Nelfy Ynfante (Jose Dilone/Facebook)

Opening The Cardinal Nation’s Top 50 countdown for 2023 is high-performing 17-year-old pitcher Nelfy Ynfante. Will the right-hander return to the Dominican Summer League for a second season? What does he throw? What is his future? FREE report!

Nelfy Ynfante

Position: Pitcher
Age: 17 years old
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height/Weight – 6’3/168
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent on January 15, 2022
Home: San Francisco de Macoris, Dominican Republic

Opened 2022: Dominican Summer League (Rookie)
Primary team in 2022: Dominican Summer League (Rookie)
Finished 2022: Dominican Summer League (Rookie)

Prior Top 50 ranking – not applicable

Click on the above photo to be taken to Ynfante’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.

Link to Ynfante’s career stats

Blake Newberry’s scouting report

Blake’s ranking – no. 54

(current grade/future grade)

FB CB CH Command Future Value
40/50 40/55 30/40 30/50 35
41.1 11 8 1.96 1.26 22.3 10.9 0.22 2.05 3.84 4.35 41.8 .283

Only six pitchers made multiple starts for the Cardinals DSL affiliate this year. Four of them were 18 years of age or older. One was 16 (Leonel Sequera) and the other was 17-year-old Nelfy Ynfante. Rotation spots typically go to older, more advanced prospects, so the fact that Ynfante began his young career in the rotation already speaks to ability.

More importantly, though, his results stood out. Ynfante led his team in ERA and finished third in innings pitched. He never surrendered more than two earned runs in an outing, and only three times did he yield multiple runs.

I did manage to find a little bit of video of Ynfante pre-signing, and one thing jumped out at me immediately – he has a lot of room to fill out his frame. He is listed at 6’3” and just 168 pounds which means there’s still a lot of physical projection for him.

Watching his mechanics, he’s still very much a work in progress, as is often the case for 17-year-old prospects.

The first mechanical flaw I noticed is that his glove arm often pulls his front shoulder down and causes his right arm to fly open. This is causing his body to open early and leaving his right arm dragging behind, thus slowing it down.

This also adds a lot of stress to the arm. It’s a common flaw in young pitchers, but cleaning it up should help Ynfante stay healthier, especially as his workload begins to increase.

That should also help Ynfante add some extra velocity via a quicker arm speed.

The second issue I noticed is that his front leg doesn’t always stiffen upon release. That’s not giving him a stable base from which to release the ball and it causes some of the momentum and force created in his lower half to not transfer to his upper body on release.

These issues cause him to be mechanically inefficient and lead to decreased velocity and spotty control. I know, that doesn’t sound great, but that should also be looked at as an opportunity. Ynfante pitched well despite the mechanical flaws and if he can clean those up, the velocity and command gains can help him be even better.

Ynfante throws a fastball, curveball, and changeup, with the changeup lagging behind the other two. The fastball has good arm side run which leads me to believe that it’s a sinker instead of a four-seamer.

His command of his curveball is inconsistent, and I would also like to see some sharper movement, but I still like the shape of the curveball a lot. It gets a lot of two-plane movement and it doesn’t have a ‘hump’ in it that gives it away to hitters. Instead, the bottom drops out without warning. This may be his best pitch as he matures.

I haven’t seen much of the changeup yet, but it looks fringy and doesn’t have a ton of movement.

It’s still really early for Ynfante, which makes it tough to really project him. I also don’t have a velocity reading of his fastball, so all I can identify are the mechanics and the movement. My fastball grade takes that into account. I’m leaving him at a present 40 and future 50 until I see more of it and get a reading on its velocity.

Summary: Needs a lot of work mechanically but put up strong results despite his issues. Good life to his fastball and a good curveball shape are encouraging but he still has a long development trail ahead of him. 

Future Value: 35
Role: AAAA guy/spot starter/middle relief
Risk: Extreme

Brian Walton’s environmental impact report

Brian’s ranking – no. 47


Signed as an international free agent on January 15. 2022, Ynfante celebrated his 17th birthday the next month. His bonus was not disclosed through seven others were from the Cardinals’ initial class of 12 signings. One may draw the conclusion the amount was relatively modest, but based on his 2022 debut, it looks to have been a good buy.

Hailing from the Dominican Republic, Ynfante has a 6-foot-3 frame to go with his 168-pound weight at signing. One can look ahead to him filling out as he matures and takes full advantage of the organization’s strength and conditioning programs.

2022 recap – professional

As the calendar turned to summer, Ynfante settled into the Dominican Summer League Cardinals rotation, albeit in a partial role.

He began the season paired with Alexander Beltre in a tandem starting arrangement but was soon giving his own rotation spot when the DSL schedule expanded to six-game weeks in week five.

For the season, he pitched 41 1/3 frames, allowing 33 hits but issuing 19 free passes with 39 strikeouts.  Ynfante generated a DSL Cardinals team-best 1.96 ERA and .216 batting average against and his 1.258 WHIP was third.

As one would hope to see, Ynfante seemed to get stronger as his rookie season continued.

In his final month, August, Ynfante came very close to earning The Cardinal Nation’s Pitcher of the Month award after yielding no runs in 12 innings on 10 hits and six walks. He famed 10 on the way to a .227 batting average against. Perhaps the most impressive stat was his average of just 7.8 pitches per inning, half of the count of many of the month’s best.

Not unlike collegiate pitchers’ workloads being limited by the Cardinals in their first professional season, so it was with Ynfante in 2022. The right-hander averaged just under four innings per start in eight starts and 3 1/3 innings in four tandem relief appearances.

2023 outlook

As I often say and write about Tink Hence, who will appear much, much later in this countdown, I’d like to see how the pitcher will fare against a lineup for a second and third time. There is still plenty of time and perhaps that will occur in 2023.

At times, the Cardinals push prospects forward to the US after just one DSL season, but it is fairly rare. It is almost impossible to assess if Ynfante has already demonstrated the combination of skills and maturity to be ready for the big step to the Florida Complex League at this time.

Given Ynfante’s youth and the fact that 2022 was his first season, it seems more likely he will remain in the DSL Cardinals rotation to open 2023. But it won’t have to be in a tandem.

Future outlook

Please don’t hold us to these dates. If Ynfante graduates from the DSL for 2024, and can progress through the five US levels in four years, he would reach St. Louis by 2028.

That sounds like a long time from now – because it is – but take some solace in knowing that he will have just celebrated his 23rd birthday when reporting to spring camp in February 2028.

In this scenario, Ynfante will have been added to the 40-man roster no later than three months prior for Rule 5 protection.

But as Blake noted above, the risk level at this juncture is “extreme”. Still if Ynfante continues to develop on his current trajectory, others will join us in highlighting him down the road.

MLB debut: 2028
Rule 5 Eligible: 2027

Our 2023 Top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects, grading scales and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the Top 50 countdown and 12 in-depth, follow-up articles breaking down the list.

50 Days, 50 Nights, 50 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects for 2023

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