Prospect of the Day: Manny Banuelos, LHP, New York Yankees
The New York Yankees held onto their key prospects at the trade deadline, including talented southpaw Manny Banuelos. He received a lot of attention from prospect hounds this spring, but let's take a look and see where he stands on the development path.
The Yankees signed Manny Banuelos as a free agent out of Mexico in 2008. He succeeded immediately in the United States, posting a 2.57 ERA with a 37/13 K/BB in 42 innings for the Gulf Coast League Yankees in '08. In '09 he pitched for Low-A Charleston in the South Atlantic League and was even more effective, with a 2.67 ERA and a 104/28 K/BB ratio in 108 innings with just 88 hits allowed. Keep in mind that he was just 18 years old.
His 2010 season started late due to appendicitis in spring training, but once he took the mound he was very successful, posting a 2.23 ERA with a 62/14 K/BB in 44 innings for High-A Tampa, though he was held on a short pitch count. He made three late starts for Double-A Trenton and held his own, then impressed everyone who saw him in the Arizona Fall League.
Returning to Trenton this year, he has a 3.59 ERA with a 94/52 K/BB in 95 innings, 94 hits allowed. Banuelos got off to a great start in April and May this year, but command problems in June and July have seen his ERA rise and his K/BB ratio deteriorate. Still, he's very young for Double-A at age 20.
Banuelos is physically slight at 5-11, 155, but there's nothing slight about his fastball, which works at 91-94 MPH and can hit 95. He has a low-effort delivery which should help him stay healthy, although he still has to get through the classic injury nexus. His changeup is ahead of his curveball at this point, but both have the potential to be plus pitches, which would give him a complete arsenal. Scouts like his feel for pitching, and he showed superior command and control in the low minors.
His walk rate has crept up this year, with a BB/9 ratio approaching 5.00, which is too high. Eastern League sources indicate that he's recently had problems commanding his fastball, which wasn't a problem in the past. He's had few problems with left-handed hitters, holding them to a .229 average with zero homers this year, but right-handers have been more effective with a .277 average and a consistently higher walk rate.
At age 20, Banuelos still has plenty of time to iron out his command issues. His strikeout rate remains impressive, and he's still one of the best southpaw prospects in the game. He needs a good dose of Triple-A, but the Yankees refused to include him in rumored deadline deals. We should see him in the majors sometime in 2012.