Yankees Prospect Roulette: Manny Banuelos

UPDATE: The first poll has now closed. Here are the results:

Prospect A: 53% (139 votes)

Prospect B: 47% (123 votes)

Based on 262 votes

Additional information and a new poll has been posted after the jump.

Let’s have a little fun today with something I like to call "Prospect Roulette". This edition focuses on pitching prospect Manny Banuelos.

Here is how the game will work:

- I will post complete scouting reports for two comparable left-handed prospects, in this case Banuelos, and a similar prospect from another organization. The reports will not feature names, simply ‘Prospect A’ and ‘Prospect B’.

- I’ll include opinions from scouting outlets to give you an idea of how the industry feels about each player. I won’t divulge what outlets I’m using initially (to maintain anonymity).

- After sifting through the information provided, you’ll have an opportunity to vote for which pitcher you’d rather have in the Yankees organization.

- I’ll allow five hours of discussion, debate, and voting on the prospects before closing the first poll.

- I’ll then provide the names of each prospect, specific sources I cited, and further analysis and opinion. I'll then set up a new poll using player names, to see if opinions change or stay the same.

Interested in playing? Then step right up! Check your biases at the door and get ready to place your bets. You're about to enter the high stakes world of "Prospect Roulette".

Now that you’ve made the decision to play, here are a few more details. These prospects are very similar, and you really have to split hairs to put one over the other. That said, the reports I’m about to provide will paint a picture that has notable differences, which hopefully should allow you to make an informed decision.

Let’s get to the reports…

Prospect A

Will be 21 years old for the duration of the 2012 season, and is around six feet tall and 180 pounds. He features a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s and can touch 96, and throws a power curve in the 79-80 mph range. He shows good deception and fade on his changeup, with little difference in arm action compared to his fastball. His fastball and curveball grade out as plus offerings, while his changeup flashes above average potential.

Has a huge strikeout arsenal. His mentality is to strike every batter out rather than pitch to contact, causing him to rack up high pitch counts. Erratic mechanics are a problem and also lead to walks. Still learning to get right handed batters out, and has showed difficulty locating his pitches against them. Durability is not a concern thanks to his sound delivery.

He has frontline stuff if he can harness his arsenal, but that remains to be seen, especially after his 2011 performance. Profiles as a #2-#3 starter to most, and even if he doesn’t reach that ceiling, has a safe floor and should be at least a serviceable starter. He could debut at some point during the 2012 season.

Prospect B

Will be 21 years old for the duration of the 2012 season, and is around six feet tall and 180 pounds. He features a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s with good sink, and can reach 96. His curveball sits in the mid 70s featuring good break, and a low 80s change-up. All three of his pitches profile as plus, although the results vary from start to start, with wavering mechanics being the main issue. He may add a slider, giving him a potential fourth pitch in his arsenal.

Inconsistency with his secondary offerings and trouble commanding his arsenal is the biggest area of concern. Durability is not an an issue.

He’s was touted as a future ace early in his career, and drew some lofty comparisons, but those expectations have been scaled back due to struggles with consistency. He now profiles more as a #2 starter and has an ace-caliber ceiling if things click. If his struggles in the rotation continue, he could be a dominant reliever, making his floor as a starter questionable. He could debut at some point during the 2012 season.

Additional Information:

- Both pitchers are considered in or around the Top 25 prospects in baseball.

- Prospect A is preferred 2-to-1 currently by industry experts. Two additional sources were split on the pitchers prior to last season, and have yet to release their current grades. Prior to the 2010 season, all industry sources preferred Prospect B due to his high ceiling and tantalizing arsenal.

- Prospect B has an arsenal that grades out higher than Prospect A, although the gap closed during the past year.

- Following the jump to Triple-A, Prospect A and Prospect B posted nearly identical expected ERAs. Prospect A posted a stronger strikeout rate, while Prospect B posted the better walk rate. The gap was notable in each case.

Summary:

To me, this is a classic case of personal preference. Prospect A offers solid upside and a safe floor (the conservative choice), while Prospect B offers ace upside but higher risk (the upside choice). Weighing all the evidence, which pitcher do you prefer, based on these reports?

We’ll get more specific about the prospects later this afternoon. State your case for which pitcher you’d choose in the comments. Speculate all you want on who the other pitching prospect is, but I’d prefer if we left guesses out of the comments until the afternoon. Let’s try and focus on just the reports for now.

The Reveal:


Prospect A- Manny Banuelos (New York Yankees)
Prospect B- Martin Perez (Texas Rangers)


I primarily pulled my reports from Baseball America and John Sickels, who recently updated their data on each pitcher. It’s amazing how similar these two pitchers are when you really get down to the nuts and bolts of it. Their arsenals are nearly identical, as are their builds, and ages.


The industry sources I cited for prospect preference were Sickels (minorleagueball.com), Jonathan Mayo (mlb.com), and Adam Foster and his team (projectprospect.com). Here is the breakdown of preference:


Sickels: Graded Perez a B+ prospect, and Banuelos a B prospect in his recent Baseball Prospect Handbook. In his Top 50 pitching prospects, he rated Perez 38th and Banuelos 40th, so he sees them as very close.


Mayo: Rated Banuelos the 13th best prospect in baseball, and Perez the 29th best prospect in baseball.


Project Prospect: Rated Banuelos the 8th best prospect in baseball, and Perez the 15th best prospect.

In his 2011 midseason prospect update, Keith Law of ESPN preferred Perez, ranking him 10th overall, with Banuelos in 18th spot. Prior to last season, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus were split on the pitchers. Baseball America ranked Perez 24th last year, and Banuelos 41st. Baseball Prospectus had Banuelos 27th, and Perez 33rd. Every major industry source I found (BA, BP, PP, Mayo, Sickels, Keith Law) had Perez ranked inside their Top 25 prior to 2010 (Law had him #7), with Banuelos being either at the back end of lists or not on them at all.


Here are their Triple-A numbers from the 2011 season:


Perez: 49.0 IP, 6.43 ERA, 6.80 K/9, 3.67 BB/9, 3.98 FIP
Banuelos: 34.1 IP, 4.19 ERA, 8.13 K/9, 4.98 BB/9, 3.90 FIP


I found it interesting that their FIP was nearly identical when looking past the surface stats.


Personally, I’ve always preferred Perez to Banuelos, but I always prefer upside over a safer floor. The gap has closed significantly, which is a testament to how much Banuelos’ stuff has improved in the last few years.


Perez has been drawing comparisons to Johan Santana for as long as I’ve been following him, thanks to the special nature of his plus changeup. Consistency and confidence are his main issues, although he’s been rushed from the start, which many believe has slowed his development.


Banuelos is very close to big league ready, with his main issue being keeping his mechanics consistent enough to throw more strikes. He may always be a guy who has high pitch counts due to his aggressive mentality, but you’re always going to see the strikeouts pile up with him.


Now that you have the names, and the data, what are your thoughts on the two pitchers? Has this changed your vote, or do you stand by your original observation?

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