Prospect of the Day: Dellin Betances, RHP, New York Yankees
As the summer heat builds, you'll likely be hearing the name of pitching prospect Dellin Betances in any trade rumors involving the New York Yankees. An imposing 6-8, 260 pound right-hander, Betances is the one of the two best pitching prospects in the farm system (the other candidate is lefty Manny Banuelos) and would make excellent trade bait if he isn't given an actual chance to pitch in the Bronx.
A native New Yorker, Betances was drafted out of high school in the eighth round in 2006. He could have gone several rounds higher if not for a Vanderbilt commitment that cost the Yankees $1 million to buy out. He pitched brilliantly in rookie ball after signing (1.17 ERA) and continued pitching well in the New York-Penn League in 2007 (3.60 ERA) but was shut down early with a sore forearm. He recovered to have a solid 2008 season in the South Atlantic League (3.67 ERA, 135/59 K/BB in 115 IP), but in 2009 he was limited to just 44 innings in Double-A by elbow surgery. He fully recovered in 2010 with excellent pitching in the Florida State League (1.77 ERA, 88/19 K/BB in 71 innings).
In 2011, Betances has a 2.62 ERA with an 86/40 K/BB in 76 innings for Double-A Trenton, allowing just 54 hits and five homers, with a 1.41 GO/AO. Overall in his minor league career, he has a 3.24 ERA with a 435/175 K/BB in 375 innings with just 293 hits allowed.
Betances has intimidating size and the velocity to match, working between 92 and 98 MPH and consistently hitting 94-95. He maintains his velocity through games and the fastball has excellent sinking action, which shows up statistically in low home run rates throughout his career. He mixes in a cutter, but his key secondary pitch is a knee-buckling knuckle-curveball, a true plus pitch although his command of it is not always consistent. His changeup was weak earlier in his career, but he's refined it and the offering now draws solid-average grades, though Eastern League observers say he needs to use it more often. Many scouts saw him as a future closer earlier in his career, but the improvement in his changeup, combined with the curve and powerful fastball, give him a starter's arsenal.
The biggest issue for Betances is simple command and control. He'll show sharp control in his best outings, but he also has games where he has serious issues finding the strike zone. Even when he throws strikes, they aren't always quality strikes (this is the difference between control and command). His stuff is so good that he can get away with spotty command in the minors, but major league hitters would present a more difficult challenge. Scouts trace these problems to mechanical inconsistency, an understandable issue given his size.
Betances posts outstanding K/IP and H/IP ratios, statistical testimony to the quality of his stuff. His walk rate is still higher than ideal, and he would benefit from time in Triple-A. If he continues to develop as expected, he would be ready for major league action in the second half of 2012.
Since Betances is from New York, it would be neat if the Yankees could hold onto him and give him a chance in the rotation eventually, but his value as a trade chit may preclude emotional considerations.