With his high-nineties fastball and four scoreless outings to his name this spring, Dellin Betances has generated a lot of buzz in camp, and it looks like he has a good shot of cracking the Yankees' Opening Day roster. There seems to be one spot up for grabs in the Yankees' bullpen at the moment since Joe Girardi has said he "fully expects" David Phelps and Adam Warren to make the team, and I'm assuming Preston Claiborne will make it, too. So that essentially leaves Betances, Matt Daley, and second lefty candidates Cesar Cabral and Fred Lewis to battle for one spot -- and if Girardi's praise means anything, Betances looks to be the favorite at this point.
Although he still throws gas, Betances' prospect star has faded considerably over the years. Once projected to be a front-line starting pitcher, the Yankees finally moved him to the bullpen last May after struggling to find his command as a starter for nearly a decade. Betances looked much better after his move to the 'pen, posting a 1.35 ERA and a 2.20 FIP over 32 appearances. As great as that all sounds, Betances' control remained an issue: He walked 11% of opposing hitters and that rate jumps to 13% if you include the five batters he hit.
Let's play the blind player game. Compare the stat lines of Player A and Player B from 2013:
Both seem like good pitchers with very solid strikeout totals. Nonetheless, the edge has to go to pitcher B, who walked less than half as many batters as pitcher A, and also has the much more believable HR/9. If you read the previous paragraph, you probably guessed that player A is Betances. Player B is none other than Matt Daley, who also pitched in Scranton last season.
As good as Betances was out of the bullpen last year, Daley was even better -- and Daley didn't spend the first five weeks of the season stinking up the joint. Sure, Betances has looked strong this spring, but he's primarily been facing minor league hitters up to this point and it's well-documented that spring training performances mean next to nothing. Besides, Daley has been just as sharp, whiffing six batters in 3.2 innings. And unlike Betances, Daley has a track record of success in the majors. Other than the fact that Betances throws harder, I don't see any reason why he should make the team over Daley, who seems to be little more than an afterthought in the bullpen race.
Betances' performance in Scranton last season was encouraging, but it was a pretty small sample size, and he continued to show glimpses of the wildness that's plagued him in years past. Control has always been an issue for Dellin and last year was no exception. His raw stuff is nasty, which makes it easy to dream on him blossoming into a dominant, late inning reliever. That can certainly still happen, but we've been hearing about that top-notch stuff for nine (!) years now. Until he proves he has a clue where the ball's going, I'm not sold -- and I'd prefer to see Daley break camp with the team next month.