Archive for Dellin Betances
Via Joel Sherman: The Yankees are permanently shifting Dellin Betances to the bullpen. “This is the problem with the development clock,” said Brian Cashman. “If he had two or three more (minor league) options, we would keep working with him as a starter. But with him being out of options after this year, it is becoming more obvious that if he is going to help us, it is going to be out of the pen.”
Betances, 25, has pitched to a 6.00 ERA (3.91 FIP) with 9.38 K/9 (23.4 K%) and 6.00 BB/9 (15.0 BB%) in 24 innings for Triple-A Scranton this year. He still throws hard and his curveball gets swings and misses, but he’s made zero progress refining and repeating his delivery since signing for $1M as the team’s eighth round pick in 2006. Relievers have a much better chance of surviving with bad command than starters, so hopefully something clicks. Moving Betances to the bullpen is both completely unsurprising and probably a few weeks overdue.
Our season preview series continues this week with the starting rotation, though the format will change just slightly. Since there’s no clear starter/backup/depth lineage when it comes to starting pitchers, we’ll instead look at each type of pitcher — ace, number two, back-end, etc. — at different levels.
The term “ace” gets thrown around far too liberally these days. Technically every team has an ace in the sense that someone has to start Opening Day, but very few pitchers are true, bonafide number one starters. Those are the guys who provide both quality and quantity — they take the ball every five days and pitch deep into the game. Just as importantly, they do it every single year. It’s possible for a pitcher to have an ace-like year in any given season (coughEstebanLoiazacough), but the guys who do it year after year stand out from the pack. Those are the true aces.
CC Sabathia is a true ace. Despite two DL stints — including the first arm injury of his career — the 32-year-old still rattled off his sixth consecutive year of 200+ innings with a sub-3.40 ERA in 2012. The number of other big leaguers who have done that: zero. Raise the bar to a sub-3.60 ERA and it’s still zero. Sabathia was the difference in the ALDS against the Orioles, allowing just three runs in an LDS round record 17.2 innings. That’s an 8.2-inning start in Game One and a complete-game in Game Five. The Yankees and Orioles played five very tight games, but the difference was Sabathia shoving it in the first and last games of the series.
Going into 2013, CC is more of a question mark than he has been at any other point as a Yankee. He had surgery to remove a bone spur from his left elbow in late-October, which slowed his pace in Spring Training ever so slightly. The good news is Sabathia has been throwing with no complications or pain or even unexpected soreness in recent weeks, so he remains on target to start Opening Day. That said, his fastball velocity did drop more than one mile an hour from 2012 to 2013. It’s a concern because of his age and all the mileage on his arm, if nothing else.
Despite the DL stints and reduced fastball, Sabathia was excellent last season — 3.38 ERA and 3.31 FIP — so excellent that his strikeout (8.87 K/9 and 23.7 K%) and walk (1.98 BB/9 and 5.3 BB%) rates were the second best of his career behind his monster 2008 campaign with the Indians and Brewers. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild came to New York with a reputation for increasing strikeout rates and reducing walk rates, and sure enough Sabathia has posted a 8.79 K/9 (23.5 K%) and a 2.16 BB/9 (5.8 BB%) during his two years under Rothschild after managing a 7.59 K/9 (20.6 K%) and 2.71 BB/9 (7.4 BB%) during his first two years in pinstripes. One year is a fluke but two years are a trend, as they say.
The Yankees have internally discussed scaling back Sabathia’s workload going forward in an effort to keep him healthy and just fresher late into the season. That could mean treating him as a 200-inning pitcher rather than a 230-inning pitcher — one fewer inning per start, basically — but that’s much easier said than done. Sabathia is, by his own admission, a rhythm pitcher who is at his best with more work, not less. Finding the balance between lightening the overall workload and remaining super-effective will be difficult.
Either way, Sabathia is a benefit of the doubt guy. I assume he’ll remain a workhorse of the first order and highly effective until he isn’t. The elbow surgery and reduced velocity are red flags, but they have yet to manifest themselves in a meaningful way. I still expect CC to strike out a ton of batters in his 200-something innings while keeping his ERA under 3.50. He’s been doing it nearly a decade now and I’m not going to doubt him. At some point Sabathia will decline, but I don’t expect it to happen just yet.
Knocking on the Door
There are only a handful of minor league prospects who project as future aces — don’t confuse ace stuff with being a projected ace — and the Yankees don’t have any of them, especially not at the Triple-A level. The only pitcher who is slated to open the season in the Triple-A Scranton rotation with ace-caliber stuff is Dellin Betances, who lacks everything else a pitcher needs to be an ace: command, durability, etc. Brian Cashman already acknowledged the club will start the 24-year-old Betances in the Triple-A rotation despite his miserable season a year ago, but this is his final minor league option year and I don’t think the Yankees would hesitate to move the big right-hander into the bullpen if he doesn’t show improvement within the first few weeks of the season.
The Top Prospect
The Bombers have a farm system that is top heavy in position players — the top five prospects on my preseason top 30 list were all position players — especially since their best pitching prospects all seem to be coming off injury. The best combination of ace-caliber stuff and command in the system belongs to 22-year-old Manny Banuelos, who will miss the season due to Tommy John surgery. His command started to waver in 2011 though, maybe due to the elbow problem.
Right-hander Jose Campos lacks a defined breaking ball while right-hander Ty Hensley lacks command in addition to having basically zero professional experience. Righty Bryan Mitchell has nasty stuff, missing bats with a mid-90s fastballs and a knockout curveball, but he lacks command as well. Perhaps the best current ace package in the system belongs to 23-year-old Jose Ramirez, who is organization’s consistently hardest thrower with a swing-and-miss changeup and a promising slider. That said, he’s battled arm injuries and command throughout his five-year career. The Yankees don’t have a minor league pitcher who clear projects as an ace, but Ramirez is probably the closest. He’s a long way from that ceiling, however. A very long way.
The Deep Sleeper
The Yankees were very, very patient when it came to signing soon-to-be 22-year-old Rafael DePaula. They originally agreed to sign him for $500k back in November 2010, but it wasn’t until March 2012 that the right-hander was approved for a visa and the contract became official. Because he wasn’t allowed to play in actual games while waiting for his visa, DePaula lost a lot of crucial development time these last two years. With command of a mid-90s fastball and low-80s curveball, he’s the best bet in the organization to emerge with the “future ace” label over the next 12 months. DePaula figures to start with High-A Tampa this year, but the Yankees could opt to hold him back with Low-A Charleston given the lack of experience.
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Sabathia is one of the game’s ten best pitchers and pretty clearly the second most important Yankee heading into the 2013 season. He’s truly irreplaceable. The Bombers don’t have any clear-cut ace-caliber pitching prospects in the minors — just a collection of guys with good stuff or good command or good health, but not all three. It’s a problem going going forward given the team’s plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014 (and beyond), so they’ll have to get creative to pull it off. Either that or hope for good luck.
Perpetual prospect Dellin Betances threw a scoreless inning on the road against the Astros this afternoon, and to quote Houston’s announcers, he was “scary wild.” That’s pretty typical for the right-hander, who had a nightmare season a year ago and has struggled to harness his admittedly impressive stuff over the last six years. The 25-year-old ranked 23rd on my preseason top 30 prospects list, and today he walked two, struck out two, hit a batter, and uncorked a wild pitch. We’ll start with the good stuff, like the big fastball in the .GIF above. More to follow — click to embiggen — after the jump.
Via Chad Jennings: Brian Cashman confirmed that prospect/suspect Dellin Betances will open the season as a starter for Tripe-A Scranton, just like last season. He’s expected to join Adam Warren, Brett Marshall, Vidal Nuno, and Shaeffer Hall in the rotation. Hall could get stuck spending a third year with Double-A Trenton if the Yankees sign a veteran depth starter.
Betances, 24, was so awful as a starter for Scranton last year (6.39 ERA and 5.88 FIP) that he had to be demoted to Double-A, where he was slightly less awful (6.51 ERA and 4.15 FIP). Betances pitched in relief during the Arizona Fall League and it seemed like he would continue to pitch out of the bullpen going forward since his command and mechanics have shown negligible improvement during his 6+ year pro career. The Yankees will burn Dellin’s final minor league option this year, meaning he’ll have to pass through waivers to go to the minors starting in 2014. It’s make or break time, if he doesn’t show any improvement early in the season they should stick him in the bullpen quickly and salvage whatever value they can.
Friday: McDaniel following up with a part four looking at a number of secondary pitching prospects — including an interesting 18-year-old right-hander just brought up from the Dominican Summer League — as well as OF Slade Heathcott, SS Cito Culver, and SS Austin Aune. So yeah, get on that.
Tuesday: Over at FanGraphs, Kiley McDaniel put together some scouting notes on various Yankees prospects he saw in Instructional League the last few weeks (part one, part two, part three). Among those covered were OF Tyler Austin, 2B Angelo Gumbs, RHP Hayden Sharp, 3B Dante Bichette Jr., RHP Dellin Betances, 3B Miguel Andujar, C Peter O’Brien, and C Gary Sanchez. Some of the reports are good, others not so much. They’re all worth the read though, so make sure you head over to check all of them out.
Via Anthony McCarron, the Yankees have designated right-hander Cory Wade for assignment. The move clears a 40-man roster spot for Dellin Betances, who was activated off the 60-day DL so he could pitch in the Arizona Fall League.
It was quite a fall from grace for the 29-year-old Wade, who gave the Yankees about 55 great innings before falling apart in late-May. He was an important part of the bullpen in the second half last year and for the first six weeks of 2012, but for whatever reason he just lost the ability to locate. That’s a recipe for disaster given his pure finesse approach. All told, his Yankees career featured a 4.23 ERA (4.13 FIP) in 78.2 innings after being plucked off the scrap heap. For shame, I liked Wade.
Betances, 24, was placed on the minor league DL with shoulder tendinitis in late-August, but the Yankees recalled him and stuck him on the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man spot for Andy Pettitte last month. He had a nightmare season that included a demotion from Triple-A to Double-A. The AzFL season begins tomorrow, and Betances is one of seven Yankees prospects heading to the desert.
As expected, the Yankees have activated Andy Pettitte off the 60-day DL in time for this afternoon’s game. To clear room on the 40-man roster, right-hander Dellin Betances was recalled from Double-A and placed on the 60-day DL. He missed the end of the minor league season with shoulder tendinitis but is expected to be healthy in time for the Arizona Fall League next month.
Via Josh Norris, the Yankees are sending right-handers Dellin Betances, Mark Montgomery, Danny Burawa, and Zach Nuding to the Arizona Fall League this year. Austin Romine, Slade Heathcott, and David Adams have already been confirmed on the position player side.
Betances had a nightmare season that ended with shoulder tendinitis, but apparently he’ll be healthy enough to pitch in the desert. He has a long way to go to rebuild his prospect value, and it’ll be interesting to see if he starts or relieves out there. Montgomery is the club’s best bullpen prospect and Burawa isn’t far behind, though he missed the entire season with oblique and rib problems. Nuding is a bit of a sleeper and might have the biggest arm in the organization, though he missed time with a shoulder injury this year as well. That’s the common theme here, everyone ticketed for the AzFL other than Montgomery had injury problems in 2012.
8:28pm: VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed to Norris that Betances had an MRI and has been diagnosed with shoulder tendinitis, so at least there’s nothing structurally wrong in there.
5:30pm: The year of the pitching prospect injuries continues. Josh Norris reports that right-hander Dellin Betances has been placed on the Double-A disabled list with a sore right shoulder following last night’s four-inning, 82-pitch outing. With both Manny Banuelos and Jose Campos missing most of the season with elbow trouble, the top three pitchers on my Preseason Top 30 Prospects List have now spent time on the shelf with an arm injury this year.
Betances, 24, is in the middle of a disastrous season split between Triple-A and Double-A. He’s pitched to a 6.44 ERA in 131.1 innings, with a walk rate (6.8 BB/9 and 15.7 BB%) that is far too high and a strikeout rate (8.5 K/9 and 19.6 K%) that is well-below his previous career norms. Arm injuries are nothing new for Betances, who had Tommy John surgery in 2009 and also missed about a month with a sore shoulder in 2008. The minor league season ends in less than two weeks, so he’s probably done for the year even if the Thunder make a deep playoff run.
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.