Dellin Betances’ Big Chance

Seixeiro: Yankees sign Chris Leroux to minor league deal
Yankees rank 20th in Keith Law's organizational rankings

I swear, it still feels like the 2006 draft was just yesterday, but the 2014 season will be Dellin Betances‘ eighth (!) full season in the organization. The Yankees gave the towering right-hander from Washington Heights a $1M bonus as their eighth round pick back in ’06 and hoped he would develop into a frontline starter. That has not happened but the team has not given up on his enormous potential.

Last May, following six ugly starts with Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees moved the soon-to-be 26-year-old Betances to the bullpen full-time and the improvement was immediate. He struck out 43 of the next 136 batters he faced (31.6%) while allowing only eight runs and 12 walks in 34 innings. The Yankees called him up briefly in mid-August and then again as an extra arm when rosters expanded in September. Betances finished the year with a 2.06 ERA and 93 strikeouts (35.3%) in 65.2  total relief innings.

“I just feel like, confidence wise, I feel good,” said Betances to Anthony McCarron last August when asked about moving into a relief role. “I get to pitch more often, instead of going every five days. I get to go two or three times in that span, so I think the more time I get on the mound has helped me be more consistent … I think it’s just being more aggressive, attack the strike zone right away, where if you’re a starter, you kind gradually get aggressive as the game goes on.”

Repeating his delivery and keeping his long limbs in check has always been a struggle for the 6-foot-8 Betances, but apparently working more often out of the bullpen helped him stay in control even though he threw fewer total pitches. There’s nothing particularly impressive about a 10.6% walk rate (his walk rate as a reliever in 2013), but it’s substantially better than the 14.3% walk rate he posted from the start of 2011 through the conversion last May, when he looked close to a lost cause.

Betances struck out eight and walked one in 4.1 innings last September and barring some last minute additions, he’ll head to Spring Training as part of a wide open bullpen competition. The only relievers guaranteed to be on the roster come Opening Day are David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, and Matt Thornton, so that is potentially four open spots. I count as many as ten guys competing for those four spots, including potential fifth starters like David Phelps and Adam Warren and minor league free agents like Robert Coello and Brian Gordon.

Brian Cashman confirmed that, for whatever reason, Betances qualifies for a fourth option and can be sent to the minors this season without having to pass through waivers. Had he not qualified for the fourth option and instead required waivers to go to back to Triple-A, he might have won a bullpen spot almost by default. Now Betances will have to not only earn a big league job in camp, but he’ll have to continue to pitch well in the regular season to keep it. Spring Training competitions don’t end on Opening Day.

For the first time in his nearly nine full years as a pro, there is a clear path for Betances to make the Yankees out of camp and play a rather significant role this coming season. Nothing in the bullpen is set aside from Robertson being the closer and Thornton being the lefty specialist, so if Betances shows last summer’s success was a true indication of his ability and not just a fluke, he could assume an important late-inning role rather quickly. This is his chance to justify that seven-figure signing bonus and more than a half-decade’s worth of patience.

“I’m thrilled to just come out here and whatever situation I need to be used in,” added Betances while talking to McCarron. “I’m ready for that.”

Seixeiro: Yankees sign Chris Leroux to minor league deal
Yankees rank 20th in Keith Law's organizational rankings
  • mitch

    Really hoping that either Betances or Ramirez stand out in the spring and get one of the spots. I’m sure they’ll find a few serviceable arms out of the group, but they’re the only two that i can really see becoming late innings stoppers.

    • RetroRob

      Mark Montgomery, he of the 200+ Ks in 130 minor league innings, could certainly step forward this year, too, assuming last year was a hiccup driven by usage an injury. He misses bats, and that’s key for a late-inning reliever.

  • I’m One

    I like seeing a hometown kid make it, so I’m really pulling for Betances to continue the success he had towards the end of last season. Hopefully the Yankees investment in and patience with him will pay off.

    • Kiko Jones

      Me too. And for the same reasons as you.

  • Kosmo

    It´s more like 3 open spots.
    1 and/or 2 of Warren/Phelps depending on who wins the 5th rotation spot could be 1 of Pineda/Nuno/Phelps/Warren.
    So the 2 or 3 remaining BP spots could go to :

    I can´t realistically see Coello, Gordon etc. being in the mix.

  • Mike Myers

    Kinda crazy that he might end up as the best player out of the Killer B’s

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Why in the world does everyone think Banuelos is dead or something.

      He had surgery. He’s still young. He’s still a lefty.

      • Dalek Jeter

        “He’s still a lefty.” THIS!

        As long as a player throws with his left hand and can bring it in the high 80s to low 90s with at least an average secondary pitch with some semblance of an understanding of the strike zone, that player will get chances into their mid 30s.

        • RetroRob

          I’m pretty sure a year from now Banuelos will be the Yankees top rated pitching prospect again and back on most, if not all, top 100 lists for MLB.

      • The Great Gonzo

        Wait, he’s not dead?

        • The Great Gonzo

          Holy shit…. HE’S LEFT HANDED????

          • Max

            No. He’s right handed. And he’s dead.

  • bobby

    Lemme tell ya I like this kid. Hometown guy, 6 foot 8, striking guys out at a 30% clip. I don’t know about this whole “competition” business though…everyone wants to talk as if its this great motivating factor that’ll get him going again. It took the guy 8 years to get to the big club, and now yanks management is holding the possibility of demoting him over his head for the whole year. Isn’t it hard enough to get major league hitters out? Now you gotta worry about how any pitch could be your last in the majors on top of that? Don’t give him the keys to the car yet but don’t make him feel like he barely belongs here either.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      He hasn’t proved that he does belong here. Why should he get a spot above someone who can pitch better than he can?

    • The Great Gonzo


      • Dalek Jeter

        I laughed.

      • Mykey

        Uh, hey?

    • Dalek Jeter

      That’s life when you’ve spent 8 years proving that you probably don’t belong. Don’t get me wrong, I hope, and even facetiously made the joke, he’s the next great Yankee bullpen arm. But after struggling for 7 and 3/4 year and having some decent success out of the bullpen you don’t just get a spot handed to you, you have to earn it and prove that you belong.

      • bobby

        hey I hear yah buddy…I’m hoping he comes out hot and makes an impact early. Give him long relief duty and save him for August when Kuroda starts to peter out.

        Plus we could use him for bench clearing brawls…Talk about a real competitive advantage when you got a 6 foot 8 guy from da Bronx running after ya…has a similar stature to Graeme Lloyd and he performed fantastically in the brawl in ’96 against the Oreos…So to recap: Lloyd=Betances…96 season=2014 season (WORLD CHAMPS!)…finkle=einhorn. fin.

        • Macho Man “Randy Levine”


    • jjyank

      “It took the guy 8 years to get to the big club, and now yanks management is holding the possibility of demoting him over his head for the whole year.”

      Yes, this is true of the way most teams, especially ones trying to win every year, handle guys that come up from the farm. You have to produce, or you’ll get sent back to AAA. It’s life, and the Yankees, or any other team, won’t just sit their and let a guy with very little/no track record suck on a consistent basis. Betances has to earn the right to stay in the bigs, he doesn’t get a permanent bullpen slot as some sort of minor league lifetime achievement award for being around eight years.

      All that said, I certainly hope he does pitch well enough to carve out a bullpen career for himself. But he’s gotta make that happen on his own merits.

    • Mike B

      I think it would be wise to give D.B. a long look. He has the stuff to be special out of the pen. I hope the Yanks get behind the end of this season D.B. in the 8th and Robertson in the 9th could be very good.

  • Upstate Yanks

    I remember when the three B’s didnt stand for:

    Definite Bust
    Probable Bust
    Maybe a Bust

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      “Maybe a Bust”

      Applies to every prospect in history.

      • Ed

        Considering 70% of the Top 100 lists end up being busts, I’d argue that “Probable Bust” applies to every prospect.

        • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

          I’d agree with that.

  • Dalek Jeter

    Next great Yankee bullpen arm. You heard it here first.

    • Mandy Stankiewicz


    • Geno

      You are a joke.

  • The Great Gonzo

    His success this season is my biggest (non-Tanaka) hope for this season. He could be an absolute monster if he can just reign in the control and harness it enough to keep ML hitter on their heels.

  • pat

    He gets off the rails too quick, IMO. Seems like he’d walk a guy, then all of a sudden he walks 3 guys and there’s a huge problem. He has the arm and arsenal to pitch well in MLB, but not sure about his noggin.

    • jjyank

      Why is it always about a guy’s “noggin” when someone has control issues? Maybe he just doesn’t have great control, like other guys just can’t master a certain pitch. It doesn’t need to be a mental thing.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead


        • jjyank

          I win!

      • mitch

        It’s not like being wild completely dooms a relief pitcher either. There are plenty of relievers that have been successful despite averaging 4+ walks/9. Robertson used to be one himself.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Why is wildness always about his noggin? Why not about maybe the mechanics of having a body that big are tough to control consistently, and maybe he just doesn’t have quite enough coordination to repeat the motion as well as some other guys do?

      Why is it always “He doesn’t know how to focus?”

      Have you played golf? I’ve had days where my swing seems perfect, I play 4-5 holes at around even par, and then all of a sudden on hole 6 I can’t drive, hit an iron, or putt. It’s not because I’m not focused; it’s not because I don’t want it. It’s because it’s hard.

      • The Great Gonzo


        • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

          Jim Has A (Bored) Noggin

          • jjyank

            Jim’s Noggin Is An (Unfocused) Peckerhead

    • Dalek Jeter

      That’s one of the problem with really, impossibly tall guys, IMO. They walk one guy, and they try to focus on throwing strikes more instead of focusing on their mechanics, their mechanics get out of whack because of this, leading to more wildness and then down the rabbit hole we go.

      • RetroRob

        That reminds me. Having been watching baseball since the mid-70s, there was a time when MLB teams actually stayed away from drafting tall pitchers because they didn’t believe they had the body coordination to be successful at pitching. I remember the Yankees had a pitcher named Jim Beattie (who went on to be a GM) who was, gasp, 6’5″, maybe 6’6″. That’s actually an ideal height today, but 30 years ago it gave talent evaluators pause. I remember some people conjecturing that Beattie had control issues because of his height. (Beattie actually was a decent pitcher, although hidden by playing on a bad team in Seattle. His career was pretty much over by 30 by what appears to have been an arm injury.)

        Yes, people are taller today, but not dramatically. Maybe the average male height has gone from 5’9″ to 5’10”. Yet the percentage of pitchers in teh 6’4″ range seems to have climbed much faster than the general population. Where talent evaluators may have stayed away from taller pitchers a generation back, they seem to be driven to them today.

        Not sure what my point is. I don wonder is a reverse has happened and shorter pitchers, the 6′ variety, might have less chance today, or are automatically sent to the pen. Would Greg Maddux be given a chance to start if he came along today?

        • brian

          I believe the thought behind it is a taller pitcher has a release point closer to the plate making it tough on the hitter

    • The Great Gonzo

      Not mental. All about those gangly limbs flying all over the place, IMO.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        Too slow, Muppet Star.

        • The Great Gonzo

          Oh, I know… It was worth mentioning ‘gangly limbs’ though. Literally the only reason I decided to comment was ‘gangly limbs’, like Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man:

          • jjyank

            I heard that guy has a wicked 12-6 curve though.

            • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

              I heard he can throw a gyro ball.

              • The Great Gonzo

                But what about Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man’s V-LO?!?!?!?!?

              • I’m One

                And he shoots below par consistently. Heard he’s heading out on the pro tour soon.

                • lightSABR

                  Also rated Elo 2350 in chess. How’s that for a noggin?

  • gbyanks

    didnt giardi say the caliborn is a lock for the bullpen.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      I was going to make a joke here but, irony of ironies, my phone autocorrected “Caliborn” to “Claiborne.”

  • Eselquetodolosabe

    Rooting hard for the farm kids; Betances, Montgomery & Ramirez, have legitimate chances of making the ’14 NY pen. Most fans follow the farm closely, and almost always prefer homegrown’s to FA’s.

    • Chris

      Idk if most fans follow the farm closely, but I definitely agree that they prefer homegrown. I feel pretty good, I know the farm has been disappointing lately, but we do have a lot of pitching talent. Maybe no superstars ie Strasburg, Harvey, but we have a lot of average to above average talent that should be able to flesh out a young and solid bullpen for some years to come.

      Technically, Tanaka is our number 1 prospect right now though, so we actually do have a top 10 prospect level talent if you think about it.

      • brian

        True. he is still technically a minor leaguer. So i would say we have the number 1 prospect. He can also be considered home grown.

    • nsalem

      I prefer homegrown if it’s grown correctly.

    • qwerty

      It’s not really a big deal one way or another if they make it or not. So sad that yankee fans have resorted to rooting for bullpen guys.

  • Matt DiBari

    God this is depressing.

    • RetroRob

      Buck up, Buckaroo.

  • Dale Mohorcic

    Does he wear his height as his number?

    • Marc Perez

      haha wow, it appears that he does

  • http://riveravenueblues mississippi doc

    This is all nonsense. Ron Guidry is shorter than me (I’ve lived many years in Lafayette; he is also a really good guy) and Randy Johnson and Roger Clements are not exactly short. Talent is talent. Ask Calvin Murphy.

  • Mike

    I think Betances will THRIVE in the bullpen. He showed it last year and it’s now had time to sink in…..I AM A RELIEVER. I think before the end of the year, he will be THE 7th inning guy as part of the bridge to Robertson….who I ALSO believe will thrive this year.

    • brian

      I hope so. Robertson’s problem is he throws too many pitches. He has to learn to get guys out and get through an inning without throwing 25-30 pitches every time.