Mailbag: The Killer B’s vs. The Big Three


Viva la The Big Three. (Cataffo, NY Daily News)

Dan asks: How excited should we be about the Killer B’s (Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman) in comparison to how we were a few years ago with the Big Three (Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy)? Also, when can we expect an impact at the major league level?

The first thing we have to remember is that we’re talking about a group of very different pitchers here, so it’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison. Just speaking in general terms, Brackman, Betances, and Joba are all pure stuff guys. Hughes and Banuelos are a combination of stuff and polish, while Kennedy is all polish. The Killer B’s have a higher collective ceiling only because IPK drags down The Big Three, not that he’s a bad pitcher or anything.

Another difference is health. Both Brackman and Betances have had major elbow surgery in the not too distance past, but none of The Big Three have gone under the knife. Well, Kennedy did for his aneurysm in 2009, but that was a non-baseball thing, like Banuelos’ appendix. Then there’s performance. Hughes, Kennedy, and Joba completely smoked the minors, not a single one ran into any kind of rough patch where they struggled for a month or so. Brackman, as well know, sucked in 2009, and Betances had been pretty inconsistent prior to the elbow. The track records are on opposite ends of the spectrum as far as I’m concerned.

If I had to pick between the two group of pitchers at their respective prospect status peaks, I’d take Hughes-Joba-Kennedy eight days a week and twice on Sunday. Hughes and Joba we simply the two best prospects of the six, and at his peak Kennedy was a better prospect than either Brackman or Betances. In terms of hype, which is really what the question boils down to, I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Big Three were more hyped and anticipated. Like I said, they all destroyed the minors, and that alone is enough to drum up some excitement. And remember, the Yankees were in a very different place a few years ago. The rotation was crap and here we had three young and exciting arms coming to save the day. That adds fuel to the fire as well.

As for when you can expect The Killer B’s to make an impact, I think Brackman’s the first one to debut, likely as a reliever in the second half of 2011. I suppose if he performs well enough and the Yankees have a need, he could come up as a starter, but there are a few guys ahead of him on the pecking order. Both Betances and Banuelos are 2012 guys at the absolute earliest. Neither has much experience at Double-A, so they still have to clear that hurdle and then deal with Triple-A. Banuelos will probably beat Betances just because he’s better and is more advanced as a pitcher, but Dellin has a 40-man roster spot to his name.

Best part of it all? The Yankees have five of these six guys, so no matter who you like best, we all still win. Developing not one, but two trios of pitching prospects like this within four years of each other is rather awesome if you ask me.

Categories : Mailbag, Minors


  1. JobaWockeeZ says:

    Let’s just pray to Mo the Killer B’s are developed correctly. You could have elite prospects but if you rush them then its pointless. They can’t screw up with the B’s. They need at least one of them panning out if they get Lee becuse they can’t throw 100 million dollars every 2 years.

    • I think that’s a bad rap on the Yanks. What else did Joba really have to prove in the minors? He blew away 3 levels, then blew away MLB hitters as a reliever. Hughes and IPK spent plenty of time in the minors. If anything, IPK may have been down there a year longer than he needed.

      It’s so much easier to blame the team than the player, but there’s a saying in organizations that “the good ones will find their way back” when a player fails in his first go around in the bigs. At some point, it’s up to the player (read that Joba) to sink or swim.

      • Sayid J. says:

        In response to that, though, the argument could be made that it was the Yankees who caused Joba to sink by consistently switching his roles and that Joba could’ve swam/swum if it weren’t for the Yankees moving him around so much. Ultimately, I think both Joba and the Yankees deserve some blame for his shortcomings. Hughes and Kennedy were both handled fine in my opinion.

        • Johan Santana, Pedro Martinez, David Cone and countless others were moved around in their first few years in the bigs, and went on to great success. If the back and forth bullpen/rotation stuff was so detrimental to a pitcher’s development, those guys should have failed as well, no?

          • Sayid J. says:

            A few exceptions to prove the rule? Fine by me. Just because a few guys did it and succeeded doesn’t mean that what the Yankees did to Joba didn’t hurt him tremendously.

      • JobaWockeeZ says:

        It’s not Joba’s fault he didn’t get a shot in 2010 and it’s not his fault he won’t get one in 2011 either. He could even be put in AAA as a 6th starter working on his craft and get value that way.

        He has what, 80 innings in the minors? He blew away hitters but never got to build up arm strength as a starter. Who knows what would happen in 2009 if Joba had no limits. He had a sub 4 ERA before he reached his innings total of the previous year.

      • MikeD says:

        I’m not in the camp that Joba not reaching what was viewed as his potential was a Yankee development problem. It was an injury. I remember one talent evaluator, when commenting on the big three, said the Yankees will be lucky if one becomes a quality starter, one becomes a reliever, and only one ends up with a short career because on an injury. He also thought at least one, if not two, would eventually be traded. He was spot on.

        • MikeD says:

          …and I should add, if the same happens with the new big three, we’ll be lucky again. That’s actually a good return on young pitching, which is the most difficult to project because of injuries. I am still hoping that one of the six (now one of the five) really turns into a major front-end pitcher.

      • The Big City of Dreams says:

        True some of the blame is placed on Joba because he has to make the adjustments and do what it takes to get better but lets be honest they didn’t handle him well and as a result we have a middle reliever that’s inconsistent.

  2. Griffey's Grotesquely Swollen Jaw says:

    well it’s kinda like 4 1/2 cause of the way the F’ed up Joba. I mean we still HAVE him but not like when he was a major prospect.

  3. Gonzo says:

    Callis just tweeted that he thinks Betances and Brackman may be relievers. At least he said “may.” I wonder if he’ll say why.

  4. Good stuff, Mike. I would only add that the upside of Brackman/Betances is higher than any of the rest of that group. If either of those guys ever truly put it together, they could be dominant #1 type aces. But having the potential to do that and actually doing it are two very different things. In either case, odds would be against them. Loads of pitchers have great physical ability that never translates into dominating at the MLB level.

    If I had to bet between Betances or Brackman panning out, I’d go with Dellin. I was very impressed by the strides he’s made and maintained with his control and the recent Frank Piliere piece about him.

    • Reggie C. says:

      Brackman hasn’t been hurt in 2 seasons of minor league ball (knocks on wood). The strikeout numbers aren’t gaudy like those posted by Betances, but Brackman’s development is on the right trajectory. I’m not saying both have equal ceiling as Betances’s +10 K/9 rate can’t be ignored, but imo, Brackman looks like a surer bet take that 5th spot in the rotation.

      • I found it very intriguing that even in Brackman’s first year back, when it seemed he couldn’t do anything right, he had a nice finish to the season working out of the bullpen. May be coincidence, maybe not.

  5. Greg says:

    Well, as far as what they’ve actually done in the majors, IPK ( the guy bringing them down) has the best full season as a starting pitcher.

    • All Star Carl says:

      AL > NL

      AL East > NL West

      • JGS says:


        4.19 ERA/1.248 WHIP in the ALE >> 3.80 ERA/1.201 WHIP in the NLW

        Hughes had the better K/BB despite not facing pitchers. For what it’s worth, they had identical 2.7 bWARs and 2.4 fWARs, despite Kennedy throwing 17.2 more innings.

        It’s close, but I’ll take Hughes’ season.

        • MikeD says:

          It’s really not that close. Kennedy’s FIP is 4.33, and that’s not league adjusted. He’s easily a 5.00+ ERA in the AL East, which is why the Yankees were willing to move him. He was the weakest of the big three, and still is by a good margin. Worse, Kennedy produced that 4.33 FIP with a .265 BABIP. Way unsustainable. He’d be red meat in the Al East.

          BTW I am rooting for IPK. I expect him to get better, and he has an ability to miss bats, but he was and is expendable.

          • Greg says:

            Interesting. I never said IPK’s season was that much better. I just figured they were somewhat close and I thought IPK’s might be marginally better. I knew that would cause discussion and someone would prove me wrong. At least no one brought up the W-L records.

            I still think, at the very least, IPK had a decent full season as a MLB starting pitcher, which is more than you can say about a lot of hot prospects. All the speculation on AA players is just that.

    • Jd says:

      Exactly. Watch the baseball games and get your head out of the stats.

  6. Jd says:

    Mike you know less about prospects than Callis, if that is even possible. Two years ago Callis said this about Cano and the SF Giants in the context of the Cain deal. “I think it’s a lot harder to find a Cain than a Cano, and I’m not sold on Cano being a 2B long term. The Giants aren’t going to contend soon, so I’d rather have a package of young talent instead of a big leaguer coming off his worst season and creating questions about his work ethic. Kennedy’s stock isn’t high either and Miranda doesn’t do much for me.”. The Giants won the WSand Cano is the best second baseman in baseball. The Bs have a much higher ceiling than the first three. Wake up

    • I Voted for Kodos says:

      Mike said right in the article that the Killer B’s have a higher ceiling. The argument for taking hte other trio is that they, as a whole, had better minor league numbers and a much better chance of reaching their ceilings.

      Would you like to support your claims with some facts? I certainly don’t see a thing in your post that disputes anything Mike said.

      • Jd says:

        It’s not the ceiling it’s understanding when you are watching something special. The fact that you ask for stats is exactly the point. I go to about 40 minor league games a year and watch these guys. I don’t look for consistency, the thing that drives stats and all the nonsense about metrics. I actually look for the guys who are lights out for five innings and blow up in one inning.

        • Jd says:

          Sorry, but all of these guys that talk so much on the Internet just don’t go to the games. They look at the box score the next day. I am telling you that these three B guys right now, have more stuff than either Hughers or IPK. Joba before the injury was like they are. Don’t get me wrong I like Phil and IPK but if you have gone to the games you would understand that Betances, in particular, is simply a different animal. Banuelos, because he is a lefty, is simply unique in the group. And, Brackman has something that is scary.

          • MikeD says:

            Mike A.’s review of the two sets of Killer B’s is spot on. He covered both sides. No need to be insulting because you disagree with another opinion or to cover up for your own insecurities.

          • Ray the Anti-Handle says:

            Again, nothing you’re saying is contradicting anything Mike has said. You’re evaluating these pitchers based on stuff only. Nowhere has Mike said Betances and Brackman have worse stuff than Hughes and IPK did. Actually, he says otherwise (emphasis is mine):

            Just speaking in general terms, Brackman, Betances, and Joba are all pure stuff guys. Hughes and Banuelos are a combination of stuff and polish, while Kennedy is all polish.

            I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like Mike is saying Brackman and Betances have better stuff than Hughes and IPK.

            Also, Mike is viewing these prospects for what they are: prospects. Unfortunately, there’s more to being a prospect than pure stuff and ceilings. Mike chose the Big Three over the Killer B’s because of the ease they trounced through the minors and their lesser injury histories at the time alongside their stuff and ceilings.

          • I Voted for Kodos says:

            In response to your fist post, I asked for facts, not stats.

            Second of all, just because people glance at stats does not mean they rely on them. From everything I’ve read, Mike relies on a combination of scouting reports and stats. We were all so high on the big 3 (and Joba and Hughes in particular, Kennedy was always the third wheel) because the scouting reports and the stats were both excellent.

            You act like Mike was down on the B’s when he wasn’t at all. In fact, he said that the three have the higher collective ceiling, but that Hughes-Joba-Kennedy had a better combination of raw stuff and performance. While I get that performance isn’t everything, it still does matter somewhat. The B’s may have better stuff overall, but let’s not pretend like the Big 3 dominated based on command and guile; they all had amazing stuff in their own right. Given all that, I’d probably take the big 3 over the current group, simply because they were, as prospects, more likely to hit their ceilings.

        • Ray the Anti-Handle says:

          If a prospect has the stuff to throw lights-out innings for five innings, great. But remember this, stuff is not very useful if you’re not consistent. Just ask AJ Burnett.

          • Jd says:

            Have you guys even seen them pitch. What are facts as opposed to stats. You are wrong. Mikes point is that he would take the big three any day of the week. He is clueless. Go watch them pitch and then blog.

  7. I like this mailbag Q a lot, and nice analysis from Mike. My follow-up question is, what about Mr. Nova? Could he be better than all six of the pitchers mentioned above?

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      It’s unlikely. His ceiling is pretty low being a mid rotation starter at best.

    • Gonzo says:

      The crazy thing is, he has the lowest ceiling of all 6 pitchers, but he might have a better career than some of them. Time will tell.

    • Lacks a true out pitch, but it’s tough to bet against an extreme strike-thrower like him. If you can pound the strike zone like him, you force hitters to swing more than they want to and half the battle is won right there. Even without great stuff, guys like him can have good careers.

  8. ZZ says:

    Joba had the highest ceiling of all 6 players and it isn’t really particularly close either.

    The way he was throwing, the ability to maintain the type of elite velocity he had deep into the game and even get stronger as the game wore on at times, combined with his off speed stuff made him look like a once in a generation arm in 2007 and before his shoulder injury in 2008.

    The key word is had though.

    • Orthopedic surgeons will tell you the human body simply isn’t made to throw a Baseball 100 MPH without damaging the body. For every Nolan Ryan or Walter Johnson, there’s hundreds of guys who blew their arm out at an early age.

      But that being said I’ve never bought the shoulder stuff. He had tendinitis, which every pitcher gets at some point of their careers, often more than once. People forget he only missed a month, came back and pitched that year out of the bullpen and threw the ball well. I think Joba is just an out of shape guy who had success come too quickly, and he needs to learn what he needs to do in order to stay successful at this level. Clemens wasn’t a workout fiend when he was 24 years old, either. He became one after Boston booted his ass out of town and said he was finished.

      • ZZ says:

        Oh, I am not inferring his shoulder problem as the reason. I don’t think it is at all.

        It is just a convenient marking point.

      • The Big City of Dreams says:

        When he came back after missing a month his velocity was down and he had a some trouble getting batters out.

  9. icebird753 says:

    It’s not as though Joba lost all of his stuff…what he lost was his confidence. I hate how they are using him right now as well, I really hope they can give him a chance to show what he’s got elsewhere. His time in New York won’t include him being a starter, and that’s really a shame, especially with a guy with that much potential.

  10. Ultimate Yankee Warrior (James) says:

    The only problem is it’s the Yankees developing all of these pitchers. Can they get even one front of the rotation arm out of these Super Six?

    So far, its a middling reliever and a league average starter.

    • Zack says:

      You make it sound like league average starter at 24 is a bad thing?

      It happens with every team – for every Clay Buchholz there’s a Michael Bowden.

      • bexarama says:

        Let’s remember what Clay Buchholz was before this year too.

      • Ultimate Yankee Warrior (James) says:

        We’re weren’t promised a league average starter. And Joba’s value was murdered, like taken out back and shot.

        • Donny says:

          Thats Joba’s fault. A good pitcher takes his role and excels in it… Forcing his way into a higher position.

          I don’t buy the nonsense that the Yankees screwed him up. Thats just excuses and BS by people who wanted Joba to be an ace soooo badly. HE DIDNT SUCCEED!!! SOMEONE MUSTA SCREWED HIM UP!!!

    • Donny says:

      Chances are no…

      I would guess that out of 20 to 30 prospects just like these 6, only 1 becomes Hallady, CC, Santana, Lincecum, King Felix etc.

      I bet one (hopefully 2) of them becomes a non elite ace… e.g. Oswalt, Verlander, Buehrle.

      But with the Yanks financial muscle and understanding that they never draft top 10 thats totally acceptable.

      If you sign CC and Cliff Lee, then develop a Verlander and a Buehrle. You’re golden.

  11. EndlessMike says:

    Hughes and Joba look better because there in the majors but Joba is overrated so far and Hughes wasn’t even better then Javier Vazquez until he’s last two starts and sucked in the postseaon in 2009 and 2010

    The killer B’s have more upside then the big three but have more risk.

  12. LunaticFringe says:

    Some time ago I put out a question at Baseball Prospectus. I was thinking specifically of Brackman at the time. The question was: How many pitchers who have had TJ BEFORE reaching the Majors have gone on to have relatively successful careers as starters? I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head, but the good folks at BP did come up with two guys. David Wells and Kenny Rogers. That’s it…two guys. On the one hand, knowing this doesn’t relieve you of “real” analysis, but it’s useful to know what sort of unpleasant history you’re dealing with.

  13. Kevin Ocala, Fl says:

    I still believe that the Yankees ultimate plan is to get Joba ready to compete for a starter’s spot. I believe his head got too big, he really doesn’t look like he’s taken his conditioning seriously, and the Yanks are,ahem, yanking his chain. Either that or his shoulder is worse than advertised.

    • The Big City of Dreams says:

      “I still believe that the Yankees ultimate plan is to get Joba ready to compete for a starter’s spot.”

      No disrespect you’re probably the only one besides Joba that still believes that

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