Yankees Prospect Profile: Manny Banuelos

Christian Petersen

After missing all of the 2013 campaign due to an elbow injury, can he reestablish himself as the top pitching prospect in the organization?

Background:

Manuel "Manny" Banuelos was signed by the New York Yankees in 2008 with four other players out of the Mexican League, including former Yankee Alfredo Aceves. He may appear unimposing at five feet and eleven inches tall, but this southpaw's arm certainly has life. As of 2012, Baseball America described his velocity as "91-94 mph and touched 96" with good tailing action, a "sharp curveball... and a tumbling changeup"; so, he has some serious weapons. By 2011, Banuelos was considered the top pitching prospect in the Yankees organization; FanGraphs described him as having "number two starter" potential, and that he was so good that it was believed he could get a major league call up by midseason 2011. That never happened, obviously. Even though he was lights-out in High-A (1.71 FIP in 44.1 IP), he couldn't translate that into Double-A and Triple-A performance, as he finished the 2011 season in Scranton/Wilkes Barre with a 4.19 ERA and 3.90 FIP in 34.1 IP.

2013 Results:

Scranton (Triple-A): Did Not Play

Banuelos did not pitch at all in the 2013 season and has not pitched period since May of 2012 due to: a minor back issue, a bone bruise on his elbow, then a torn ligament due to rehabbing said bone bruise, and then a subsequent Tommy John surgery. Because he did not actually have his surgery until October of 2012, he spent the whole of 2013 rehabbing. These injuries combined with a lackluster 2012 (4.50 ERA and 3.83 FIP in 24.0 IP) have caused his stock to decrease, but it is still a good sign that his strikeout rate remained high in Triple-A in 2012 at a rate of 8.25 strikeouts per nine innings.

2014 Outlook:

According to Vice President of Baseball Operations Mark Newman, Banuelos will be healthy and ready to go for spring training and has stated that his velocity and stuff are back to pre-injury levels. If that is the case, then Banuelos will likely begin 2014 in Triple-A and, depending on his performance, could get a call-up to the major league club midseason or in September. While there is always the chance that he will be but a fraction of the pitcher he was before Tommy John (the possibility always exists), many expect him to continue his growth. Considering that he is a left-handed pitcher with velocities in the mid-90s and is also only 22, there's still plenty of upside to be had. If all of what made him a top pitching prospect in 2011 checks out come this spring, then expect him to make a run at the fifth rotation spot at some point during the season.

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