Holiday Mailbag: Manny Banuelos

Carig: Yankeees have already been in contact with Tanaka's agent
Former Yankee Paul Blair passes away at 69
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Frank asks: Can you give a rundown of what’s going on with Manny Banuelos? I know losing two years of development to injury has a way halting conversation, but he was our very best pitching prospect in the not-too-distant past, and he didn’t really do anything on the mound to dash all hope. Is there any chance he contributes to the big club in some capacity next season?

Banuelos, who is still only 22, has not pitched in a game since May 2012 due to a series of elbow problems, first a bone bruise and then Tommy John surgery. He reportedly tore the ligament while rehabbing from the bone bruise, which is why the surgery didn’t happen until October even though his season ended in May. Before the elbow problems, Banuelos missed about three weeks with a minor back issue. An appendetomy in 2010 rounds out his injury history.

Joel Sherman reported Banuelos was pitching in simulated games back in September and, a month later, VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed to Chad Jennings the southpaw will be ready for Spring Training. They opted not to send him to winter ball just to give him a rest after rehabbing for what amounts to 15 straight months. “Newman said he was reaching 92-94 mph with a good changeup and getting breaking balls over the plate,” wrote Jennings back in October.

If we take Newman’s word for it, Banuelos is healthy and his stuff has returned following the two elbow injuries. I know Tommy John surgery has a very good track record but there’s always that small chance the guy is never the same again. It happened to J.B. Cox back in the day and Ryan Madson sure seems to be having a devil of a time following the procedure as well. Here is what Baseball America (subs. req’d) wrote about Banuelos before the 2013 season, when they ranked him the team’s eighth best prospect:

Before he got hurt, his fastball sat at 91-94 mph and touched 96, with good tailing life at the lower end of that velocity range. He also threw a sharp curveball in the upper 70s and a tumbling changeup, giving him two above-average secondary pitches at his best. He had trouble harnessing his livelier stuff and was unable to make adjustments to throw quality strikes prior to his injury.

Brian Cashman confirmed at the Winter Meetings that Banuelos is ticketed for Triple-A Scranton to start 2014 and that makes sense. He has not pitched in competitive games for a long time and he’ll get a chance to get back in the groove in an environment where results don’t matter. David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Vidal Nuno give the team enough back of the rotation depth to start the year, so they’ll be able to bring Banuelos back slowly. As Baseball America indicated, he wasn’t exactly a finished product before the injury. The command (once his trademark) needs work.

Now, that said, I definitely think Banuelos could wind up helping the team at some point next season, probably in the second half. I thought he was in position to help them in the second half a year ago, before the elbow problems. The Yankees shouldn’t count on him for anything though, whatever he gives them is a bonus. Banuelos has lost enough development time these last two years. Next season has to be about getting back on track and ironing out the command first and foremost. If that leads to a big league audition — Banuelos is already on the 40-man roster — at some point, great. If not, there’s always 2015. He’s still so young.

Carig: Yankeees have already been in contact with Tanaka's agent
Former Yankee Paul Blair passes away at 69
  • dicka24

    Triple A seems like something he should work his way back to. I hope they start him down low, and let him quickly work his way back up to the top. No need to face the best hitters after such a serious injury, and long layoff. You don’t want this kid overthrowing at all. Let him ease his way back during the first month or two.

    • Andrew

      This might be the plan regardless, since the weather is usually very blah across the International League in early April. If he stays down in Tampa and Charleston for the first month of action that might accomplish an easing-in to get him ready for AAA hitters.

    • Tisha

      absolutely agree He is only 22. Let him work his way back slowly. Once he gets his legs under him , he will start to bounce back

  • Dalek Jeter

    Devil’s advocate: The two guys that you listed as having problems bouncing back from TJS were both relievers. Sure, every 5 days starters put a lot of wear and tear on their arm, but then they get 4 days of rest inbetween to help it heal a little bit. Relievers are used much more often, and even though they are throwing less, there is less recovery time. I mean I don’t know if it’s a thing, but that is one way to make sense of relievers having a harder time coming back from TJS.

    • The Great Gonzo

      You could add The Artist Formerly known as Joba Chamberlin to this list as well. He was only a SUPER reliever for a short stint of time, but he was laughably bad after coming back from his TJS.

      However, the Double Devils Advocate: Soria came back from two TJ’s, and presumably didn’t miss a beat… I would say that it has less to do with the players’ role (starter vs reliever) and more on a case by case basis. Or maybe its more on the theory of which players are more disciplined in their regimens during recovery…

      Shit, what do we know. Its all voodoo.

      • Tisha

        must you always curse, Gonzo?

    • Chris Klement

      Well he either trumps your argument or is the exception that proves the point – Mariano had Tommy-John surgery.

      • Now Batting

        Mo never had TJS.

        • aluis

          Yes he DID ding dong! In the minors.

          • forensic

            If you’re going to insult people, you should at least try to be correct when doing it:

            Michael recalled being in Fort Lauderdale the night Rivera hurt his elbow in the minors in 1992, recalled taking him to see Dr. Frank Jobe, who performed surgery on Rivera’s elbow in August of that year.

            “People think he had the Tommy John surgery but he didn’t,” Michael said. “The ligament was frayed and Dr. Jobe cleaned it up.


          • Now Batting

            And you call yourself a Yankees fan?

  • BK2ATL

    Great news on this kid. I really hope that he rounds back into form, and gets that control back to normal. Hopefully, it was just the injuries that led to him losing it.

    If Pineda is back in form as well, there’s a decent nucleus of young pitching (starting and relieving) available for us, for a change, in Nova, Pineda, Phelps, Banuelos, and Warren. Imagine the NY Yankees finally developing a quality lefty SP for a change….

    Anyone knows how Montgomery is coming along? What are his prospects for cracking the 25 man roster in 2014? I haven’t kept up with him.

    • nycsportzfan

      Montgomery is coming off a down season, but is still on track, and is expected to bounce back in 2014. Hes got the devestating slider and more then enough on his fastball, to have me thinking possible future set up man for DRob.

      Also, could add Nik Turley, Jose Ramirez, and Rapheal Depaula to our up and coming pitching.

      • BK2ATL

        Thanks on Montgomery!!!

        Was thinking moreso on the young homegrown talent that can/could impact our 2014 staff. I agree on the Turley, Ramirez and Depaula on the future. We have arms, just need to develop them.

        I’m hoping that 2013 was our major injury year. 2014, we really break through.

  • trr

    So, this is mostly positive news, but in reality, we need to follow the slow track on Manny. Here’s hoping the injuries are behind him, and he can progress….

  • mattb

    Mike, assuming your point is that there ought to be no expectation of his contributing anything to the big club this year, as he’s still young and if he needs it, should be given the opportunity to take a full season to work himself all the way back and get his development process back on track. But unlike a Pineda, where I think your sense (and I sadly agree) is that the Yanks should expect no productivity out of him ever, and treat anything else as gravy, can’t say that about Manny. Think there still has to be an expectation of contribution at the big league level moving forward – not that the semantics matter, he’ll contribute or he won’t.

    I think of myself as pretty even keel in terms of trying not be pie in the sky or constant, epic doom. I think the probability of all three of these happening this season are remote (given the nature of probabilities): 1) sign Tanaka and get a guy who’s immediately a front line starter, 2) get 120-140 innings from a Pineda who resembles the guy they thought they were trading for and 3) have Banuelos be so nasty in AAA as to be banging on the door for a rotation spot after the all star break; in reality, two of the three would be pretty awesome, and probably even live with one. But I will take a moment to dream on all three, cause if that were to happen, you’re looking at a transformed pitching staff,

    It’ll never happen, and whether I’d even want it do would depend on the deal terms, to an extent – I do believe that if 189 is out the window and if the club is willing to go well above and beyond it (not sure if they are), I sure won’t be complaining, but I feel like right now, with such a dearth of MLB ready talent in the upper levels, is the exact time where you must exercise financial might – sign Tanaka and Jiminez (easily my favorite of three flawed choices), thereby increasing the chances of being able to deal some of the upper level arms for a young infield talent. Of course, not fantasy baseball, those deals don’t come together like magic, and if I’m the Yanks, I’m going balls to the wall on Tanaka, I reluctantly overpay Stephen Drew if he’s willing to move around the infield (that’s the piece the Yanks desperately need, a Prado, a Scutaro, a guy who can play all the infield spots and provide at least league average offense, and I’d take Drew because we know he can play SS, only costs money, and he’s the youngest of that group) and try to add one more reliever.

    That’s a club that I think would absolutely be highly competitive.

    • mattb

      my goodness, I hadn’t realized my reply was as long as the post – my bad

    • Bo Knows

      you never know it could happen, Yankees have been so snakebit the past few seasons at some point the snake is going to let go.

    • stuckey

      Some analysts believe the Yankees already have their Scutaro/Drew on the roster.

      • stuckey

        And THAT was written before be put up .410/.482/.892 in his first year in AAA, though of course it was in the PCL.

      • mattb

        I find Anna really interesting – I wish I could find more on his defensive capabilities, but if he can hold down short, I imagine he can play some second – really nice numbers, just always old for his level. But so was Gardner. I hope Anna makes the team. Granted, right now this club has about a billion infielders competing, but I’m all for giving Dean a good long look.

      • Eselquetodolosabe

        Great info/read, thank you. Love that niche the writer has created with this series of “under-rated” minor leaguers, knocking on MLB’s door. Interesting psychology regarding the name. Success is subjective to human nature and sometimes, askew perception. The “sexy”, vs the solid, etc…, anyway, nice read, nice series. I’ll continue to look for these write-up’s, and hope Mr. Anna becomes another under-dog, feel-good story.

    • vicki

      let yourself dream.

      there are times to be down on this team. mike’s losing-streak rants this summer were cathartic, because the front office and ownership had fed us an insulting “best-available” “championship-caliber” line.

      but one of the beauties of baseball is its start in the spring. promise, possibilities, emergence.

      people who don’t let themselves hope are pussies who are afraid of being hurt.

  • UncleArgyle

    Interesting that the Yankees biggest organizational weakness, a lack of young impact pitching, by next year could actually be an organizational strength. Lots of “if’s need to come through, but; if they sign Tanaka, if Nova continues his development, if Pineda and Banuelos come back strong from injuries, the Yankees could have a impressive and young rotation in the near future. While not likely, it certainly is possible that the 2015 opening day rotation is Tanaka, Nova, CC, Pineda, and Banuelos. How awesome would that be? A lefty veteran and 4 guys under 27. Sign me up.

    • forensic

      Nova would already be 28 on OD 2015.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      It’s what happens when you base everything on whatever snapshot of a moment you’re taking. The system is not as bad as spoken of last season, and wasn’t as good as was spoken during the Big Three era.

    • Slu

      I hope that happens and I hate to pee in your Cheerios, but it is much more likely that they get nothing ever out of Pineda and Banuelos than both becoming productive members of the rotation.

  • Phil

    they should work to have him ready for the Majors in 2015 Have him throw around 120 – 130 innings work on his command ..i like the comments above.

    2015 rotation: CC nova tanka(hopefully), Manny and ???

  • Scout

    I simply have no confidence anymore in anything Mark Newman says. When Banuelos proves it on the field, I’ll believe it.

    • Steve (different one)

      While this seems a little harsh, I think I have to agree. Part of Newman’s job is to talk up everyone in the system, and while I get that he’s not going to speak ill of Yankee properties, his opinions are always very optimistic.

      That said, Baneulos was a legitimate prospect before TJS, and if his elbow had been bothering him for a while, perhaps that explains his lack of command in 2011(?).

      There is some room for optimism here, and given how common TJS is these days, I have to think (hope?) the Yanks are due for some good luck at some point.

  • Mike Myers

    you forgot Brackman…..

    too soon?

    • RetroRob

      It’s never too soon to forget Brackman.

  • Delbert Grady

    Never fear, the Yankees will turn him into a LOOGY before season’s end and he’ll never start again. Ugh.

    For once, how about you let a young starter with promise build innings and remains a starter? The whole shuttling between the pen and the rotation to help the big club is played out.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      How does this apply to Manny Banuelos, exactly?

    • Dalek Jeter

      Isn’t that exactly what they’re doing?

    • Bubba


    • The Great Gonzo

      ALL TEH CHAMBERLINZ!!!!!!!!!

      • vicki

        and, to a certain extent, teh phil hugs.

        • radnom

          So basically, the Yankee’s last two major pitching prospects?

          Sounds like the guy has a valid concern to me, not sure why everyone is being a dick about it.

          • Mr. Roth

            Wait, did you read somewhere that the Yankees were planning on moving Manny to the pen? Because it seemed to me that he was just manufacturing some baseless drama.

            Nova struggled several times as a starter too, but I don’t recall them panicking and turning him into a reliever. Same goes for Phelps.

            Maybe, just maybe, the Yankees do a little bit of a deeper analysis than you know about before they make those decisions.

          • vicki

            i don’t think people are being particularly dicky; but for starters, the practice of using a starter prospect to help the team before he makes the rotation is not uncommon. i remember young doc as a starter/reliever. and coming out of the bullpen early on didn’t ruin derrek holland or chris sale, for example.

            the yankees surely made mistakes. it’s foolish to believe you can stretch a guy out with the team during the season, for one. but if manny can come up and be a dominant lefty reliever it doesn’t have to mean anything for his projection as a starter.

            • The Big City of Dreams

              but if manny can come up and be a dominant lefty reliever it doesn’t have to mean anything for his projection as a starter.


              It would be best if he’s not put in the pen under any circumstance just to avoid the drama and bs.

  • RetroRob

    His command was off before the surgery. Throw in nearly two lost seasons and the fact that many pitchers experience command issues coming back from TJS at the start, and I would not have high expectations. Still hopeful he can contribute in 2015.

    • Farewell Mo

      I agree.

      I highly doubt he can help much in 2014 since he’s sure to have a strict innings limit and I wouldn’t want to see the Yankees dick around with him putting him in the major league pen when he is called up.

      If he has enough innings left to make 4-5 starts in the majors in the 2nd half after having a strong 1st half in AAA, I’d be more than satisfied.

      • RetroRob

        The innings limit, both on the season and within individual games, is definitely an issue. They’ll want to build his arm strength up, so there might be games where he’ll only throw three or four innings. He’s also never thrown more than roughly 130 innings in a season, so how much above that number will that want to go in 2014, if at all? Hopefully if he gets up to 130-140 that will at least place him in position for 170 or so for 2015.

        Yet as Mike notes, I can certainly see some spot starts for the team in the second half if he’s doing well. It would be a good thing for him and the team heading into 2015. The real “problem” would be if he’s pitching lights out in the minors the second half. It could happen. He actually was showing some improved command again in early 2012 at AAA, so if there was something mechanical he had figured out and that carries over, then who knows. The problem would be the temptation to keep him in the rotation if there is a need and then push his innings way too high on the year.

        I agree with the first poster. I’d start him down in the lower leagues against the weaker competition and most importantly in the warm weather. I wouldn’t have him in AAA until mid-May.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Yup. There’s no reason to hurry here.

          He’ll speed up his own progress if he’s pitching well. Otherwise, still 22. Hopefully won’t be absolutely needed at any point in 2014.

  • The Great Gonzo

    I keep forgetting he’s still only 22. Get well soon kid, We’re depending on you to not suck.

  • CS Yankee

    Let him thow 120 IP by August, take a few months off & throw another 20-30 in AFL…Opening Day 2015 he is slotted as the 5th SP, behind Tanaka, CC, Nova & Pineda.

    • RetroRob

      The Yankees would be more than happy with that plan. Pineda and Banuelos were supposed to be 2/5th of the rotation as early as 2013, and help bring about Plan 189. It still may happen in 2015, minus Plan 189.

  • Dropped Third

    If they sign Tanaka, the chances one of him, Pineda, or ManBan become an ace is pretty good. They all have great potential, are young, and could all be at 100% health this year. Please baseball gods, don’t smite all three.

    • I’m One

      Yes, agree. That would be awesome. Even if they end up being a 2-3-4 (in some order), they’re all young and would be cost controlled (although not necessarily cheap in the case of Tanaka) for some time.

      I seem to forget about Banuelos from time to time. Hope he makes that very hard to do in the near future.

  • qwerty

    I’ve completely given on the yankees ability to develop star prospects from their minor league system. If it happens it will be because it was a freak accident, much like Cano.

    • qwerty

      *given up*

    • Mr. Roth

      Whenever any farm system develops a superstar it’s pretty much an accident.

      • qwerty

        Yes, but many are often projected to be very special players either after they are drafted, or while they work themselves up the ranks within the minors. This rarely happens. Even guys who don’t put up spectacular numbers in the minors show enough talent to be thought highly of. Cano literally came out of nowhere. Cano was a complete and utter accident. The yankees had no clue what they had until his second season in the majors.

        • The Big City of Dreams

          That’s true Cano was a surprise he pretty much fell into their lap.