Manny Banuelos and the second half of 2014

Chase Whitley's Big Chance
Do Drew and Morales make sense if Beltran needs surgery?
Still the most used photo in RAB history. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Still the most used photo in RAB history. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Yankees had a very position player heavy farm system coming into the season. In my stupid little Preseason Top 30 Prospects List, their top six and ten of their top 14 prospects were position players. Two of the four pitchers in the top 14 are with Low-A Charleston and another is an injury prone Triple-A reliever. The other is lefty Manny Banuelos, who was the team’s top prospect as recently as 2012.

Banuelos hurt his elbow twice during that 2012 season — first he suffered a bone bruise, then he tore his UCL during the rehab and needed Tommy John surgery — and he did not pitch at all last year. Banuelos missed close to two full seasons due to the injuries but he is fully healthy now and back pitching in the minors. Last night’s two-out, three-walk outing was a disaster, but overall he has 23 strikeouts and eight walks in 22.1 innings this year, which is pretty good following elbow reconstruction.

The Yankees have limited Banuelos to short, three-inning outings for the most part. Considering there is a lot of talk right now about the recent rash of second Tommy John surgeries (Jarrod Parker, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Cory Luebke, Daniel Hudson, etc.) stemming from teams and players being too aggressive during the first Tommy John surgery rehab process, I’m glad the Yankees are taking it slow with Banuelos. Here is his game log:

Rk Date Tm Opp IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP BF Pit Str
1 2014-04-03 Tampa Yankees @ Lakeland Flying Tigers 3.0 0 0 0 1 3 0 0 10
2 2014-04-08 Tampa Yankees @ Clearwater Threshers 3.0 4 0 0 0 2 0 1 14
3 2014-04-13 Tampa Yankees Daytona Cubs 3.0 0 0 0 0 6 0 0 9
4 2014-04-19 Tampa Yankees @ Daytona Cubs 0.2 5 4 4 0 1 0 0 7
5 2014-04-24 Tampa Yankees @ Lakeland Flying Tigers 3.0 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 10
6 2014-04-29 Trenton Thunder @ New Hampshire Fisher Cats 3.0 2 0 0 0 4 0 0 11 40 29
7 2014-05-04 Trenton Thunder Richmond Flying Squirrels 3.0 2 2 2 1 3 1 1 13 58 35
8 2014-05-09 Trenton Thunder Reading Fightin Phils 3.0 3 2 2 2 2 0 0 13 48 31
9 2014-05-14 Trenton Thunder Erie SeaWolves 0.2 2 2 2 3 0 0 0 7 33 17
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/15/2014.

Banuelos was scheduled to work three innings in that April 19th start but got knocked out early because his pitch count was getting out of control. The same thing happened last night, though according to Nick Peruffo, Banuelos was scheduled to throw four innings for the first time this season. (He was scheduled to throw innings five through eight following Bryan Mitchell, who started and is working his way back from his own elbow injury.)

The Yankees took it very easy on Banuelos for the first five or so weeks of the season but now they are beginning to stretch him out. I’m sure he’ll throw four innings a handful of times before progressing up to five innings and eventually six. Obviously they’re doing this because of the elbow surgery, but that’s not the only reason. Banuelos is on some unknown innings limit this year and the Yankees want to make sure there are plenty available later in the season so he could help the big league team down the stretch.

“He’ll increase (the length of his outings) over the course of the year,” said VP of Baseball Ops Marks Newman to Chad Jennings recently. “We don’t want to cut back at the end of the year. You never know, if he makes great progress, maybe he’s a Major League option (at some point). We don’t want to run out of innings by September 1st or August 1st … We’re going to make sure we have enough innings left at the end of the year.”

The idea of taking it easy early in the season so there are plenty of innings left later in the year always makes me a little nervous because Banuelos could get hurt at some point — not necessarily re-injure the elbow, he could roll an ankle covering first base or something — and then he falls short of his prescribed innings total, leaving everyone stuck doing this again next year. I usually like getting the innings in early and shutting the guy down in the second half, especially prospects. That said, Banuelos is returning from a long layoff and major surgery, so I’m more than fine with it in this situation. That he might be in position to help the MLB squad in the second half is just a bonus.

(NY Times)
(NY Times)

Banuelos was said to be very advanced for his age — he just turned 23 in March even though it feels like he’s been around forever — before the injury but he was not big league ready, pitching to a 4.32 ERA (~3.88 FIP) with a 10.9% walk rate and a 1.83 K/BB ratio in 58.1 Triple-A innings before getting hurt. He had a 2.89 ERA (~3.45 FIP) with a 9.0% walk rate and a 2.73 K/BB ratio in 311 combined minor league innings before getting to Triple-A, so his trademark command had deserted him a bit. That’s one of the things he will need to iron out in the coming weeks before becoming a legitimate big league option.

The good thing is that Banuelos’ stuff has returned following elbow surgery, which is something we take for granted at times. Baseball America ranked him as the team’s 11th best prospect before the season and noted he was sitting “at 93-94 in simulated games last fall” in their Prospect Handbook, plus we saw him throw both his changeup and curveball in Spring Training. Harnessing that stuff is his biggest issue and that’s where the injury really hurts. It’s a lot of lost development time. He has to make up for a lot of lost innings.

Most importantly, Banuelos is healthy. He’s healthy and he’s pitching, something he wasn’t able to do for nearly two years. (Sunday is the two-year anniversary of the last time he pitched before this season.) Helping the Yankees later this season would be some major icing on the cake and I don’t think the team should be counting on him as anything more than a token September call-up. I know the big league staff is a bit of a wreck and the carrot has been dangled, but right now Banuelos should be focused on improving his command, getting innings under his belt, and putting himself in position to make the 2015 team. It looks like he is very much back on track following the elbow problems. It’s exactly what the Yankees wanted and needed to see from him this year.

Chase Whitley's Big Chance
Do Drew and Morales make sense if Beltran needs surgery?
  • PunkPitch

    Thunder and lightning from the left side of the diamond wouldn’t hurt the big club one bit either.

  • Worst Fans In Baseball

    I also think some of these comments might be aimed at Baneulos himself, as if to say “Hey, you missed some time, but we still think of you as a major league guy who can come up and help us out. Take this rehab process seriously and you can make it to the Bronx.” I doubt he actually comes up to the big club, I think if he still has some innings left over maybe they send him to AzFL. But keep in mind how psychologically devastating 2 years on the shelf could be for a player his age. It’s important to keep him motivated.

  • Yangeddard Solarte

    I only know this, that the NYY have not had a successful SP come up through their farm since Andy Eugene Pettitte. They said Joba and Hughes would be the 2nd coming of Clemens and Nolan Ryan. Joba’s losing ballgames in Detroit and Hughes is 4-1 and outdueling Verlander in Minnesota.

    Then they said Betances and Banuelos were the next big thing. Delin has been moved to the pen(just like Joba and Hughes were) and has found his niche. Banuelos nowhere near ready to join the MLB club. Where have all the SP gone and why isn’t anybody held accountable for this? Position players aren’t much better as the best one on the club now from the farm is Gardner.

    • I’m One

      “I only know this, that the NYY have not had a successful SP come up through their farm since Andy Eugene Pettitte.”

      Chien Ming Wang begs to differ. Guess you don’t really know anything.

  • JMJ

    This is why the Yankees rarely produce major league starters. Banuelos never mastered AA (5 BB per inning in only 1/2 a season) and yet they promoted him to AAA. He then blew out his elbow (the elbow injury may have happened even without the promotion), but they are repeating the process again. He is a pitcher who is coming off major surgery and still needs to show he can perform at AA. Yet, here they are designing his rehab for him to potentially pitch at the major league level later in the season. That is just stupid. The reason the Rays and Braves young pitchers come to the major leagues and perform is they give them at least a year at both AA and AAA. Pitching is a craft to be learned. If the Yankees were that concerned about bullpen depth at the major league level (the talk has been for Banuelos to pitch in the pen this year if called up), then they should have used their monetary advantage to sign another ML reliever. This is the same idiotic “development” process that ruined Hughes, Joba, and many others for 15 years. When will Cashman, Newman, and the rest of management be held accountable?

    • Mike Axisa

      How would you like them to be held accountable? Fire them because some pitching prospects busted while the MLB team has been going to the postseason just about every season for nearly 20 years?

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Chastise them on a website comment section. That’ll teach ’em.

        • JMJ

          Touche, Jorge, touche. I’m guessing you’re the member of the Steinbrenner family that Cashman has the incriminating photos of that prevents them from replacing him.

      • JMJ

        Yes, that is exactly how I’d like them to be held accountable. Cashman is an incredibly overrated GM. Making the playoffs nearly every year is not an accurate way to assess his performance. He inherited the dynasty and also has had the good fortune of penciling in the Core Four for the last decade (minus the three years where brilliantly he in essence replaced Pettitte with Javier Vazquez). Cashman also has been blessed by having vastly more financial resources than his competition—his payroll has often been double the major league average. Inheriting one of the 5 greatest SS of all time, the greatest reliever of all time, a strong and reliable LH starter, and a power hitting switch hitting catcher with a high OBP and then combining that with the ability to outspend your competition nearly at will makes it a lot easier to make the playoffs. Now that the Core Four are gone (or about to be), we are seeing what Cashman is capable of. In 2006, he asked for and received full control of the baseball operations. Since then, the quality of the farm system has declined and the team no longer always makes the post-season. The current team is mediocre and aging, and the farm system was ranked in the low 20’s by several respectable sources before the Tanaka signing. To be fair, it is very easy to judge from the outside and very hard to actually do the GM job. (Part of the reason I have never before posted critical comments of Cashman.) However, he is not being fairly assessed and the degradation to the Yankees has become too great. This is a very simplified analysis due to this forum, but Cashman has turned incredible gifts into mediocrity. He is the Kyle Farnsworth of GM’s.

        • Mike Axisa

          And who would you like to replace him then?

          • JMJ

            A few years ago, my dream GM’s were Sandy Alderson or Pat Gillick. I would love for the Yankees to have poached Mozeliak or Friedman if it had been ever possible. I don’t know who are the rising front office talents, but they should explore that route. Much like major league players, the best talent rarely hits the free agent market once it has established itself.

        • yankeepankee

          And let’s pile on.
          scott baker was put on waivers by Rangers last week. Looking to dump him. They had no room. He passed through.
          Cashman did not claim him. He’d be Yanks no. 2 starter now..
          go back and research it..
          Cashman did a bad job.

  • Charlie Garci

    2015 rotation
    Price, Tanaka. Pineda, Sabathia, Betances

    • RetroRob

      Price is not a free agent until after 2015, and the Yankees don’t have anywhere near the pieces to trade for him, let alone even if they did, the Rays wouldn’t trade him within the division.

      Betances will never start again, nor should he. Unless you wrote Betances but meant Banuelos. That’s certainly a possibility.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      What video game?

  • RetroRob

    Helping the MLB team late in the year might also mean he’s an addition to the bullpen, giving a strong lefty arm for September, maybe even October.

  • Charles chop jr

    Do we still have that philthy Hughes down on the farm? I heard he is going to be the ace of the future along with the three killer bees.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      “Jumpin” Jim Brunzell did throw a mean dropkick.

  • Dave G

    What exactly, is the story with Nik Turley?

  • Looser trader droids FotD™

    Those last 3 starts sort of look like a bad trend (SSS alert, but still).