Name: Manny Banuelos
Notable 2011 Stats: 3.59 ERA, 4.01 FIP, 7 HRA, 52 BB, 94 K, and 50% GB% in 95 1/3 IP with Trenton (AA);
4.19 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 2 HRA, 19 BB, 31 K, and 50% GB% in 34 1/3 IP with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AAA);
3.75 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 9 HRA, 71 BB, 125 K, and 50% GB% in 129 2/3 IP total
Why He’s This High: Banuelos held his own in Double-A as a 20-year-old, and got no worse when he was promoted to Triple-A, which says something about his impressive polish. He’s always performed solidly or better despite being extraordinarily young for his levels.
Banuelos isn’t all about polish, though. He has three pitches that at least flash plus, with a low-90′s sinker, low-80′s sinking changeup, and 75-79 mph curveball. He throws all three offerings with the same arm action, and he utilizes a simple, low-maintenance delivery that he repeats well. He’s always been lauded for his mound presence and cool demeanor, so he’s overall far more advanced than the typical 20-year-old pitcher.
If he continues to make refinements in the coming years, there’s no reason why his three-pitch mix won’t be good enough for him to become one of the better lefthanded starters in the game.
Why He’s This Low: Banuelos has fallen a bit in my rankings since last year, and the main reason for that is that he walked too many batters in the upper minors. He was just under 5 BB/9 in both Trenton and Scranton, and that’s going to have to drop significantly if he’s going to be even a mid-rotation starter. Obviously, he has plenty of time to work on that, but given his pristine command in the lower minors, there’s some evidence he hit a bit of a wall with the jump to Double-A, which is notoriously the toughest transition in the minors.
Banuelos is a small pitcher at 5’11″ and 160 lbs., and while his motion is free and easy, there’s always going to be concern over whether he’ll be able to hold up. His 129 2/3-inning workload in 2011 was the highest of his career, so he’s far from stretched out to even 170/180-inning seasons. The Yankees have been so reluctant to let him pitch deep into games that he’s only picked up six wins in his last two seasons (40 starts) despite pitching fairly well in that span.
He needs to get more consistent with his offspeed offerings, which is of serious importance in light of his inexperience at pitching deep into games.
Conclusions: Banuelos has three good pitches and a good idea of how to use them, but while he’s very polished, he still reveals his inexperience in a number of areas. If he can prove that he can throw 180-200 innings in a season and cut down on his walks, he could be a front-of-the-rotation pitcher, but those are two fairly big questions. At his age, though, Banuelos has plenty of time–most other top prospects his age just spent the past year in Low-A.
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