Mailbag: Betances as Burnett

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(Photos: Betances via J. Meric/Getty; Burnett via Mitchell Layton/Getty)

Arad asks: If Dellin Betances has a career similiar to A.J. Burnett would that be a positive? Would you take that right now? I think I would.

Oh hell yes, I’d take that in heartbeat. Burnett has been awful these last two seasons, there’s no denying that, but the first eleven seasons of his career were pretty damn good. For starters, he was almost exactly one year younger than Betances is right now when he got to the big leagues, and about two months younger than Betances is right now when he stuck in the big leagues for good. There was a broken foot and an elbow injury (caused by a batted ball) mixed in, but here is what Burnett did during his pre-arbitration years (1999-2002)….

Age 22-25: 78 G 501.2 IP, 3.82 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 7.55 K/9, 4.34 BB/9, 7.4 fWAR, 6.3 bWAR

Not great, but definitely a serviceable young arm for the rotation. Burnett made four starts in 2003 before blowing out his elbow and needing Tommy John surgery, so his arbitration years (2003-2005) were impacted a great deal by injury…

Age 26-28: 56 G, 352 IP, 3.61 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 8.49 K/9, 3.45 BB/9, 8.0 fWAR, 4.9 bWAR

A.J. had 55 million reasons to leave the Marlins for the Blue Jays after the 2005 season, so for his six team controlled years, Florida got 853.2 IP of 15.4 fWAR and 11.2 bWAR pitching out of the right-hander. For comparison’s sake, Edwin Jackson has produced 14.0 fWAR and 10.7 bWAR during those same six years of his career, but in 225.1 more innings. Those first six years are the ones you have to focus on when talking about prospects, because they aren’t guaranteed to remain with the team beyond that point. For the sake of completeness, here is what Burnett did from 2006-2009, before his last two disaster years…

Age 29-32: 114 G, 729.2 IP, 3.97 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 8.88 K/9, 3.55 BB/9, 14.9 fWAR, 10.4 bWAR

Betances and Burnett are similar in that they are hard throwing but erratic, and also possess a knockout curveball. Dellin’s changeup is reportedly better than anything A.J. has ever shown, though. Burnett skipped right over Triple-A (just four career Triple-A starts, and three were rehab starts from 2004-2007), which Betances obviously won’t do. They even have the injury bug in common, though A.J. didn’t start having health problems until he got to the show.

If the Yankees get six years out of Betances like the six Florida got out of Burnett, they should be thrilled. If he manages to stick around for another four years after that and gives them what Burnett gave Toronto for three years and New York for one, then it will have been a minor miracle. Yeah, he will have fallen short of his ceiling in that case (most do), but he would have developed into an above-average starter for ten years. That’s better than most. Anyway, a question like this is begging for a poll, so…

If Betances had Burnett's career, would you take it right now?
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  • Plank

    From the “would you take that” perspective, I think only the first 6 years are relevant.

  • Bo Knows

    My answer is that if you don’t get the Burnett injuries, yeah I would take Burnett’s career.

  • Bryan G

    Hell to the yes. That would be a major victory for the Yankees.

  • Gonzo

    They got 15.4 fWAR and 11.2 bWAR for roughly $10mm (under I think). That’s not a bad return.

    • Behind Enemy Lines

      Seriously, this is a question? If they get one year like Burnett’s he’s been worth it.

  • No Pants ‘lendelton’ for YU !!

    Burnett curve at one time was unhittable even WHEN you knew it was coming.

  • JMFish

    If Burnett didn’t implode the past couple of years, we would still be talking about him as a legitimate #2 starter. I’d certainly take that from Betances (hopefully w/o the epic collapse)

  • CJ

    My comp for Betances at this point is Jon Rauch. Sorry.

    • pat

      In that they’re both tall?

      • CJ

        size, stuff, delivery, K rate, BB rate and I think Betances becomes a bullpen arm.

        • Craig Maduro

          Rauch has a garbage K rate compared to what type of hype he came up with.

        • Guns of Navarone

          I’m sorry, but I don’t think Rauch has shown the sustained high K rates that Betances has throughout their minor league careers. Betances’ K/9 averages have NEVER dipped below double digits at any level.

          And when has Rauch thrown in the mid to upper 90’s? I can’t find anything that says he has. I see he had a torn labrum in 2005, but his strikeouts were declining before that.

          I see where you’re going if you think Betances is a reliever, but Betances Ks more, walks more, is harder to hit, gives up less HR, and I’m pretty sure he’s always thrown harder.

        • CP

          Their K rates are no where near similar. Betances has a career minor league K rate of 10.4 per 9 IP. Rauch had no seasons with a K rate that high and at least 65IP (he was at 10.5/9IP in 2000 in 62IP).

          FWIW, he missed almost all of the 2001 season after being the #4 rated prospect. I don’t know much about him, but I assume he was injured. After 2001, he never seemed to have the same K rate.

    • Gonzo

      Rauch walked less people in the minors.

      • CJ

        walked over 3.5/9 early majors

        • Jim Is Bored

          Which is still, amazingly, less than Betances’ walk rate in the minors. Yikes.

          • CJ

            suggesting Rauch is a bit of a reach?

            • Jim Is Bored

              Not really, just saying that Betances is even wilder than Rauch.

              I think it’s silly to compare guys in the minors with guys in the majors; but I guess if you’re gonna do it Rauch is not a terrible comp.

    • It’sATarp

      Rauch throws high 80’s to very low 90’s with good control and a avg K/9, Betance throws mid to high 90’s with k/9 and poor control…they are nothing alike…

    • Guns of Navarone

      FWIW, Frank Piliere’s comp for Betances is Josh Beckett.

      • Jesse

        That was from 2010.

        • Mark Ixisa

          Yup, and when he actually showed improvement in his bb rate.

      • Craig Maduro

        I don’t care if that scouting report was from 2010, it still made me drool…but then I ripped out the Mike Pelfrey scouting report from the 2009 BA Prospect Handbook and used it as a napkin.

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      Fair enough. Since he’s tall, throws hard, and is wild, I’m going to use a right handed Randy Johnson as his comp.

  • CJ

    I think Mat Latos is a better projected comp for Burnett.

    • Mike Axisa

      What about Latos reminds you of Burnett? They’re very different pitchers.

      • Jesse

        They’re both white and throw with their right hand. That’s all I can come up with.

        • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher


          • Nick

            I almost spit out my coffee on my work laptop…thank you for the laugh.

        • G

          In what world is Betances white?

          • Nick

            They were referring to Latos and Burnett….

  • dkidd

    i voted “no”

    i’m greedy

  • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

    I would gladly take an early career similar to the guy I got to watch down in Miami when he first came up. Gladly.

    Why people wouldn’t enthusiastically root for a local guy like Betances is beyond me. It is not very often you can track a guy from HS to the majors, all within your town, like this. I wish him nothing but the best, and I want it to be in pinstripes.

    • Craig Maduro

      Who has said that he or she wouldn’t root for Betances? Some people have different opinions of where he’ll end up on a pitching staff and some people were/are willing to move him in various deals, but I never really saw anybody knocking him or begging Cash to move him.

      • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher


        • Craig Maduro

          I wasn’t trying to be a smart ass. I honestly was curious where you saw that. Unless I completely missed or misread something, people are generally excited about him.

  • It’sATarp

    AJ sucks now, but people tend to forget hot good he before 2010. I’d kill to have Betance to have AJ’s career curve. Even if he sucks at 32+, we’d still get a chunk of good years out of him.

  • TomG

    I’d seriously consider trading AJ’s career for both Betances and Banuelos.
    It’s fun to dream about these guys dominating, but they’re realistically both going to flame out or get injured.

    • Ted Nelson

      If every prospect flames out or gets injured, where do the good veteran pitchers come from?

      • TomG

        I suggesting these two prospects might have a better chance of both failing than either one of them becoming the next AJ Burnett. How many prospects even stick in the big leagues for ten years?

        • Ted Nelson

          I was responding to this: “but they’re realistically both going to flame out or get injured.”

          I don’t know that there’s an obvious answer. 33 fWAR is a very good career. Granted, it’s come over 13 seasons so it’s been 2.55 fWAR per season. Good, but I wouldn’t say very good. I think I’d spread my risk across Dellin and Manny. There’s more volatility, but I don’t know that the combined projection of Manny + Betances is any worse than Burnett’s career.

      • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

        Tampa. Duh. :)

  • Bavarian Yankee

    “If Betances had Burnett’s career, would you take it right now?”

    oh yes, absolutely. That would be a realistic best case scenario if you ask me

  • Monteroisdinero

    And Manny (Whitey Ford) Banuelos will be fine too.

  • Mister Delaware

    As of right now, intelligent RABers are outpacing the unintelligent 6:1. Nice work, all.

  • Mike HC

    First act of AJ’s career was talented and injury prone. Second act was consistently mediocre or terrible.

    I don’t know if I would sign up for that so fast, but as a straight prediction, I would probably have to agree that AJ’s career will end up being better than Betances.

    Betances would probably sign up for AJ’s career in a heartbeat considering how much AJ has gotten paid. That is for sure.

  • Mantle28

    Thanks for answering my question mike, that was pretty fast. I also had a question in last weeks mailbag, I guess I’m pretty good at this.