Dellin Betances and Wasting Time

Josh Norris & Mike Ashmore interview Mark Newman
Jim Hendry, the front office jack of all trades
(AP Photo/David Goldman)

This has been a very poor year for the farm system, mostly due to injuries. High-end prospects like OF Mason Williams (shoulder), LHP Manny Banuelos (elbow), and RHP Jose Campos (elbow) suffered season-ending injuries, the latter two before the calendar even flipped to June. OF Tyler Austin missed about a month with a concussion, and OF Slade Heathcott (shoulder) and C Austin Romine (back) didn’t get into their first games until June and July, respectively. Add in the usual array of miscellaneous injuries to lesser prospects, and you have one ugly season on the farm.

One player who has managed to avoid the injury bug this year is RHP Dellin Betances, which is somewhat ironic because he was spending time on the DL with arm-related injuries every year earlier in his career. Instead, Betances has seen his prospect stock take a hit because of his performance. Never known for his command, he walked 69 batters in 74.2 innings with Triple-A Empire State (8.3 BB/9 and 19.0 BB%) before being demoted down to Double-A Trenton. Betances has been better with the Thunder — 3.8 BB/9 and 9.6 BB% in 44.2 innings — but still has a long way to go in his development.

VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman told Mike Ashmore yesterday that Betances is likely to spend the rest of the season in Trenton, which makes sense. Newman reiterated that he, and presumably others in the organization believe the right-hander can start long-term, but that’s no surprise. Even if they don’t believe that at all, they wouldn’t say so. After a little back-and-forth with Ashmore, he mentioned that he believes the Yankees are just wasting time by not sticking Betances in the bullpen now, and that got me thinking a bit about the plan for the righty going forward.

First of all, we have to understand what the problem. Betances isn’t just having trouble with his command this year, he’s having trouble with basic strike-throwing ability, especially during his time in Triple-A. This isn’t a case of a guy being unable to hit the corners, Dellin hasn’t been hitting the strike zone at all. Is that something that will click with a move to the bullpen? It’s possible, but I believe that he’s going to need as many innings as possible to iron things out. As Keith Law and Kevin Goldstein recently explained, it’s a mechanical issue more than anything. Despite his size — listed at 6-foot-8, 260 lbs. — Betances is not all that athletic and has trouble repeating his delivery.

Secondly, the Yankees do have time on their side. Betances isn’t a kid anymore, he’ll turn 25 in Spring Training next year, but the club still holds one more minor league option for next season. They can send him down to Triple-A again to work on whatever he needs to work on, which apparently is a lot. The conversion from starting to relieving isn’t the most difficult thing in the world — guys often say the biggest adjustment they have to make is to their warm-up routine. With a little less than a month to go in the minor league regular season plus a potential playoff run (Trenton has an eight-game lead in the division and should have no problem qualifying for the postseason), Betances has at least another five starts left to make this summer, likely more. Those innings are valuable.

The Yankees have given Betances 113 minor league starts and nearly 500 minor league innings to improve his ability to hit the strike zone, and so far it hasn’t happened. He still misses bats (8.6 K/9 and 20.3 K% this year), throws hard, and actually has two very nice offspeed pitches in his curveball and changeup, but he has yet to harness that stuff. I think that unless some kind of light bulb clicks over the next few weeks, Dellin should go into next year as a regular old short reliever to see if he can make it work just by going out and letting it fly for one inning at a time. I respectfully disagree with Ashmore that they’ve been wasting time by not putting him the bullpen yet, but starting next spring they have to focus on extracting value from Betances however possible. A shift to relief is the next logical step.

Josh Norris & Mike Ashmore interview Mark Newman
Jim Hendry, the front office jack of all trades
  • DM

    I think he’ll be part of package that’s traded away this off-season — maybe for an outfielder.

    • Gonzo

      I wonder how much value he would have on the trade market this offseason. Wasn’t there a rumor that Kenny Williams wanted him?

      • The DonSlaught

        At this point and if we were to trade him in the off-season, his only real value would be as a potential closer.

        So, not a ton.

        • Gonzo

          I wonder what Don Cooper would do with him.

        • DM

          That’s why I said “part of a package”. I didn’t mean he would be the center of the deal. You could sweetn the pot with his live arm and potential. Like a “we couldn’t fix him, but maybe you can” tease.

      • DM

        Yeah, some link to Chicago in the off-season.

  • http://none Ton Lon ton

    Bet it bottom dollar he will be an ace for another team

    • The DonSlaught

      I’ll take that bet

    • RI$P FTW

      An RAB ace? (4ER in 5 IP?)

  • YanksFanInBeantown


    Dellin’s starts were the highlight of DotF for me back in 2010

  • tyrone sharpton

    if he REALLY doesn’t pan out in the beginning of next season, then they should just move him to the bullpen and let him quickly ascend.

    • JonS

      The problem being, as Mike mentioned, is that you still have to be able to throw strikes out of the pen. He can’t throw strikes.

      • Preston

        He definitely needs to be the player he was last season and so far in AA to be an effective reliever. If he’s the guy he was in AAA the first half, he’s useless.

  • Strat

    After all that’s been invested to this point, if he’s still in the organization next spring I might give him a few starts at the beginning. See if the new season brings any progression or a fresh perspective. If it looks like more of the same, then make the move. I don’t see what it could hurt to take one more look after he has an off-season to re-group.

  • Frank

    Another over-hyped pitching prospect who spit the bit. He’s heading down the same road as Brackman. Perhaps, the Yanks strike gold with Banuelos. Then again, this season didn’t help his case either.

    • Jimmy James

      High ceiling high risk pitchers tend to break your heart, hence the high risk factor.

      The reports on him were pretty spot on; little chance he woul stick as a starter and reach his potential. I tend to not pay attention to all the silly names given to the next big ______ and look more to the actual scouting reports, and even those guys get it wrong.

      That’s the fun of watching the minor leagues….can’t miss stars fall on their faces and never-will-be’s cone out of nowhere. Year after year fans complain about guys no reaching their ceilings. Eventually they’ll catch on. Or maybe not.

    • JonS

      I don’t think he was over-hyped at all. Most said he was a super high ceiling guy with a super high risk to achieve that ceiling. In comparison, Banuelos didn’t have a high a ceiling as Betances, but was a safer risk in getting there.

      • jjyank

        Yeah, I don’t think he was over-hyped really either. There was the whole “Killer B’s” thing for a little while (I guess that’s what Frank’s referring to), but I thought it was always pretty well understood that Dellin was a long-shot project type.

        • Jimmy James

          In terms of being a “Killer B” and certain fans who don’t bother to read the reports, he was overhyped. That’s the only reason that anyone would say that about him is if they bought into the name without doing the research. If the poster I responded to is trying to say that the scouts were pushing him as a high probability number one/two, then he bought it hook line and sinker.

  • Mike Myers

    The thought process is if they turn him from a 3 pitch pitcher into a 2 pitch, he will be more accurate by concentrating on less pitch types?

    • Jimmy James

      *Part* of his issue has been concentration, and maintaining that over several innings, so in that sense a relief role might better suit him.
      Focusing on just two pitches wouldn’t hurt either.

      I’m or the mind that they try and get the mental side of his game under wraps, see if he can get his delivery consistent logging as many innings as possible in the minors, and then bring him up to get innings ou if the pen. They can always expand his role to a long relief situation and stretch him out for a rotation spot if he shows he can handle it.

      • Cuso

        Any reference to his mental makeup is irrelevant.

        His has control issues. The mere fact that he has control issues doesn’t mean he’s got mental issues. Nor does it mean that he has issues concentrating.

        I’m guessing that’s just an assumption you made because that the concentration/focus purported “issue” hasn’t been addressed a single time by anyone in the know. Anyone who would say that is speculating. Who listens to a scout speculating about a pitcher’s mental makeup? How would he know?

        • Jimmy James

          Actually it’s not irrelevant, unless you claim to know more than the coaches, which is where I got that from. When the guys who spend every day with him say he has issues staying focused and staying within the game, I’ll believe them more than I will you.

          Get it?

        • Jimmy James

          It wasn’t a scout, it was during a recent interview with the AA coach. If that’s speculation, then fine. You run with that.

  • bg90027

    With guys like Noesi and Phelps transitioning to the Bullpen with no experience in the minors as a reliever, I don’t understand the rationale behind converting him now or to start next season. Isn’t it better to give him a starter’s workload to work on his mechanics than limit him to a handful of innings per week as a reliever?

    • YanksFanInBeantown

      Yes, it is better.

    • Preston

      Agreed, I don’t think he necessarily needs time to transition to the bullpen. He’ll either be able to mentally handle it or not.

      • Mike Axisa

        It’s not about mentally handling it, he’ll just need some time to adjust to warming up quickly, pitching in back-to-back games, entering a game in the middle of an inning, stuff like that. You can’t just snap your fingers and make a career starter a reliever.

        • Bubba

          What if you wiggle your nose?

    • Tremont

      I generally agree. But continued failure and stalled progress can wear on a person. Maybe this is a guy in need of a fresh start. Just a thought.

  • Dan

    I just wonder what the Yankees pitching coaches are doing in the minors. It’s a little frustrating hearing about all these amazing prospects that either get hurt or don’t perform up to their ability. The Yanks are getting older and haven’t had any of their top prospects do much for the team in a few years now.

    • A.D.

      Problem with the internet age more than anything, it’s always happened, and happens with every team, just now more then ever fans know players from before they were drafted all the way through the minors

    • Oaktag

      Oh shut up.

    • pat

      Hi, welcome to following prospects. Shit happens.

      Wah wah wah Texas, wah wah wah, Tampa Bay. Blah

    • jjyank

      I really don’t think you can put this on the coaches. Betances has always been a long shot, and a couple of injuries that are difficult to prevent. Manny and Campos went down, but pitcher get injured all the time. Williams was a freak injury.

      I don’t see it.

    • Jimmy James

      You do realize that of you follow other minor league affiliates that you’ll see the same thing happens all over baseball?

      This isn’t to exclusive to the Yankees. setbacks, failures and injuries are part of the game; that’s why ~1500 kids get drafted every year and only a handful make it.

  • viridiana

    Any Yanks on BA MiLB Tools list?

  • OldYanksFan

    His BB/9 went from 8.3 to 3.8 when he was demoted. Doesn’t this indicate a fear of throwing strikes, as opposed to an inability to throw strikes?

  • Luis

    Yankees dont know how to develop pitching thats the main problem.. And also they keep guys in the minors for too long and they never get a shot at the big leagues yankees need to get younger the older players arent producing they need to develop good pitching and need young players.

    • Oaktag

      Same goes for you.

    • pat

      So true.