Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com published his list of baseball’s top 100 prospects yesterday, with Matt Moore, Bryce Harper, and Mike Trout unsurprisingly occupying the top three spots. Manny Banuelos ranks 13th, one spot behind Jesus Montero. I coulda sworn those positions were reversed last night and Banuelos was in front of Montero, but I guess I’m just going crazy. Dellin Betances is #41, Gary Sanchez is #53, and Mason Williams is #73. Mayo’s rankings always seem to buck the consensus a bit, which I like. Prospect ranking isn’t a perfect science.
Comparisons have been a part of baseball since long before the internet showed up and made everyone an expert. Players are routinely compared to one another, and this happens with prospects more than anyone else. Fans like to see comps because they want to know how good their favorite minor leaguers will be in the future, but comps often distort the truth more than anything. I used to think Austin Jackson had some Mike Cameron in him, but holy crap was I wrong with that one. Cameron hit 28 homers in Double-A one year, which is two fewer than Jackson hit in his entire minor league career. Comps need to go more than position and skin deep, if you catch my drift.
The most common comps you’ll see are the lazy ones, like my Jackson-Cameron laugher. Lefties from New England get dubbed a Tom Glavine type, soft-tossing righties are the next Greg Maddux, short-ish players that lack tools but play hard are a David Eckstein clone, so on and so forth. Some comps are forced, meaning the two players have one or two things in common — one of them is almost always appearance — but nothing else. I gave up on comps a while ago because ultimately it’s a disservice to both fans and the players, as we end up disappointed when Jesus Montero turns into a really good player but not the historically great Miguel Cabrera.
That said, comps are unavoidable and we see them every day. The Yankees top three prospects have each had a comp tag applied in recent years that’s stuck around, but none of the three are all that accurate. The players may look the same, but that’s not enough to make a comparison valid in my opinion. Let’s dig in…
Comp: Carlos Lee
Why It Fits: Handedness and body type
Why It Doesn’t: The big thing here is that Lee is a dead pull hitter, with just 16.0% of his career balls in play going to right field. Here’s his spray chart from the last three seasons (via Texas Leaguers), which really drives home the point. Montero, as you know, is more of an opposite field hitter. Lee also walked (5.3%) and struck out (11.0%) less in the minors that Montero has (7.8 BB% and 16.5 K%). It would be a success if Montero winds up having a career as long (13 seasons) and productive (.355 wOBA and 114 wRC+) as Lee has, but they’d go about it in very different ways.
Comp: Johan Santana
Why It Fits: Smallish lefties, best pitch is changeup
Why It Doesn’t: Banuelos is primarily a fastball-changeup guy like Johan was once upon a time, but his third pitch is a curveball while Santana’s was a slider. Sliders are more effective against same side hitters while curves are a bit more universal, typically used against both righties and lefties regardless of the pitcher’s handedness. Secondly, Banuelos’ changeup isn’t as good as Johan’s. It just isn’t. Santana’s changeup is one of the best ever, and it’s a stretch to use that as a basis of comparison for anyone.
Comp: Daniel Cabrera
Why It Fits: Super-tall hard throwers with big stuff and walk problems
Why It Doesn’t: This comp is the most accurate of the three in this post, but again we’re talking about a slider pitcher (Cabrera) versus a curveball pitcher (Betances). Unlike Banuelos and Johan, that is their second pitch, not third. Cabrera was also injury-free in the minors, which Dellin most certainly hasn’t been. There’s also the makeup issue, as Cabrera was a notorious hot-head that had run-ins with coaches and teammates and intentionally threw at batters when things didn’t go his way. Betances has never had that problem, not that we know of anyway.
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Maybe I’m just being nitpicky, but I feel comps should go a little deeper than typically do. In case you haven’t noticed, no one has ever become the next anyone. Every player is unique and they should be treated as such.
You may have missed them over the holiday weekend, but Josh Norris published a series of short posts with quotes from scouts about various Yankees’ prospects. Among the players covered are system headliners Jesus Montero (“He might be Miguel Cabrera”), Manny Banuelos (“I think he’s the real deal”), Mason Williams (“an above-average major league center field profile”), and Dellin Betances (“he’s going to be a bullpen guy”). Corban Joseph, Angelo Gumbs, Cito Culver, Branden Pinder, and personal fave Bryan Mitchell were covered as well, and Norris also posted an interview with Adam Warren. They’re all quick reads and get RAB’s highest level of recommendation, so check ’em out.
Arad asks: If Dellin Betances has a career similiar to A.J. Burnett would that be a positive? Would you take that right now? I think I would.
Oh hell yes, I’d take that in heartbeat. Burnett has been awful these last two seasons, there’s no denying that, but the first eleven seasons of his career were pretty damn good. For starters, he was almost exactly one year younger than Betances is right now when he got to the big leagues, and about two months younger than Betances is right now when he stuck in the big leagues for good. There was a broken foot and an elbow injury (caused by a batted ball) mixed in, but here is what Burnett did during his pre-arbitration years (1999-2002)….
Age 22-25: 78 G 501.2 IP, 3.82 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 7.55 K/9, 4.34 BB/9, 7.4 fWAR, 6.3 bWAR
Not great, but definitely a serviceable young arm for the rotation. Burnett made four starts in 2003 before blowing out his elbow and needing Tommy John surgery, so his arbitration years (2003-2005) were impacted a great deal by injury…
Age 26-28: 56 G, 352 IP, 3.61 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 8.49 K/9, 3.45 BB/9, 8.0 fWAR, 4.9 bWAR
A.J. had 55 million reasons to leave the Marlins for the Blue Jays after the 2005 season, so for his six team controlled years, Florida got 853.2 IP of 15.4 fWAR and 11.2 bWAR pitching out of the right-hander. For comparison’s sake, Edwin Jackson has produced 14.0 fWAR and 10.7 bWAR during those same six years of his career, but in 225.1 more innings. Those first six years are the ones you have to focus on when talking about prospects, because they aren’t guaranteed to remain with the team beyond that point. For the sake of completeness, here is what Burnett did from 2006-2009, before his last two disaster years…
Age 29-32: 114 G, 729.2 IP, 3.97 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 8.88 K/9, 3.55 BB/9, 14.9 fWAR, 10.4 bWAR
Betances and Burnett are similar in that they are hard throwing but erratic, and also possess a knockout curveball. Dellin’s changeup is reportedly better than anything A.J. has ever shown, though. Burnett skipped right over Triple-A (just four career Triple-A starts, and three were rehab starts from 2004-2007), which Betances obviously won’t do. They even have the injury bug in common, though A.J. didn’t start having health problems until he got to the show.
If the Yankees get six years out of Betances like the six Florida got out of Burnett, they should be thrilled. If he manages to stick around for another four years after that and gives them what Burnett gave Toronto for three years and New York for one, then it will have been a minor miracle. Yeah, he will have fallen short of his ceiling in that case (most do), but he would have developed into an above-average starter for ten years. That’s better than most. Anyway, a question like this is begging for a poll, so…
Baseball America’s look at the top 20 prospects in each minor league continued with the Double-A Eastern League today, and three Yankees farmhands made the cut. Manny Banuelos ranked sixth, Dellin Betances was three spots behind him at number nine, and Austin Romine was a little further down at number 17. Bryce Harper and (personal fave) Travis d’Arnaud topped the list.
In the subscriber-only scouting reports, John Manuel says Banuelos has “excellent velocity for a lefthander, with his fastball sitting at 90-94 mph and touching 95 with regularity.” His changeup has “sinking, screwball action when it’s on and was often his best secondary pitches.” He can also get whiffs with a power curve. Some managers in the league noted that Banuelos’ fastball command suffered because he overthrew, but others think it was a release point issue. “[Several] observers believed that his delivery will allow him to throw more strikes as he matures,” added Manuel.
Betances is referred to as a “physical beast who uses his size to sit at 91-95 mph and reach 97 with his fastball.” The report cites three secondary pitches: a power curve, a high-80’s cutter/slider, and a changeup that has “improved and is an above-average pitch at times.” The problem continues to be command, obviously. Romine is said to have a strong arm and “the hands, athletic ability and agility needed to be a sound receiver.” He’s a streaky hitter, and his batting practice power has yet to consistently show up in games.
The next and last top 20 list of interest to Yankees fans is the Triple-A International League, which will be posted Friday. Jesus Montero will certainly make an appearance somewhere high on the list, and a few of the arms (David Phelps and Adam Warren in particular) could get some love as well. Brandon Laird might even make an appearance.
After keeping us on pins and needles throughout the night, word leaked that the Yankees will start 23-year-old Dellin Betances tonight against the Tampa Bay Rays, Marc Topkin of The St. Petersburg Times reported. Betances, one of the Yanks’ top pitching prospects, made his Major League debut last week against the Rays but had a less-than-stellar outing. Showing signs of nerves and rust after a long layoff, the tall righty allowed two runs on four walks and a hit batter in just 0.2 innings. Betances, a New York native, split the season between AA and AAA where he sported a 10.1 K/9 IP but walked 5 per 9. While the Rays are trying to win the Wild Card or at least force a Game 163 against the Red Sox, the Yankees will showcase a player who figures to be a part of their future tonight.
Via Joel Sherman, Dellin Betances will “definitely” join the Yankees in Anaheim as they begin their six-game west coast trip on Friday. It’s unclear if they’ll actually let him pitch at all during the remainder of the season, but they just want him to get a taste of the big league life. Betances is on the 40-man roster, so no other moves will be required. Manny Banuelos, Adam Warren, and David Phelps will join the team a little later in the month, but they won’t be added to the roster.