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Yankees Prospects No. 2: Manny Banuelos

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Date/Location of Birth: March 13, 1991 in Monterrey, Mexico

Height/Weight: 5'11", 155 pounds

Position: Starting Pitcher

Throws: Left

Manny Banuelos and three other prospects from Mexico were signed by Lee Sigman, a Yankee scout that covers Mexico, in early 2008 for a combined $450,000. Since then, he has received a ton of hype.

Yankee fans have all the reasons in the world to be excited about Manny Banuelos. Most teams would love to have someone like him as their top prospect, but the Yankees are lucky enough to have another incredibly talented prospect ahead of him.

Pro Career: Banuelos began his professional career as a 17 year old in Rookie Ball. It was a short stint, but he showed plenty of promise. He tossed 42 innings, had a 2.57 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP, a 2.8 BB/9, and a 7.9 K/9.

The following year, Banuelos began his first full season of pro ball at Charleston and got a cup sip of coffee at Tampa to end the season. In 109 innings total, 108 of which were in Charleston, Banuelos impressed again. His ERA was again below 3, at 2.64, and his peripherals improved: 1.06 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, 8.8 K/9. 

In 2010, Banuelos missed the first two months of the season due to an appendectomy. After returning, he dominated. In 64.2 innings in Rookie Ball, Tampa, and Trenton, Banuelos posted a 2.51 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, and an astonishing 11.8 K/9. Following the season, he pitched in the Arizona Fall League, and despite less than stellar numbers in limited action, the reports on him were glowing.

Before 2011 started, Banuelos began receiving the praise he deserved. Keith Law ranked him the 12th best prospect in baseball, Baseball America ranked him at number 41, and during Spring Training, Mariano Rivera called him the greatest pitching prospect he has ever seen. With all that praise, the young lefty has stepped up his game at AA Trenton. Through 36.2 innings, Banuelos has a 1.96 ERA, a 1.33 WHIP, an abnormally high 4.9 BB/9, and an 8.3 K/9. 

Scouting Report: If the numbers and the praise don't make you fall in love with Manny Banuelos, his scouting reports will. Here is a link to Frankie Piliere's full scouting report on Banuelos, which breaks down his mechanics, fastball, curveball, and changeup. Here is what Piliere had to say about Banuelos in his summary:

Look around the big leagues and find the left-handed starting pitchers that average 93 mph or better with their fastball. It's a very short list. Throw in the fact that Banuelos is a consistent strike-throwing machine with two above-average secondary pitches and you have a very rare commodity.

If you're looking for any negatives with Banuelos, it's his lack of size. But given the ease of his delivery, plus stuff and greatly advanced pitching aptitude, this is a particular talent that goes against the stereotype. If he can remain healthy and keep his shorter frame in check, he is a true front-of-the-rotation type pitcher.

A rival scout also had this to say about Banuelos:

When he's right, he has a Cole Hamels changeup, and early Johan Santana fastball, and I can't even think of who has as powerful a curveball from the left side in the big leagues.

Additionally, Trenton's beat writer, Josh Norris, gave Banuelos the nod over Dellin Betances as the better Major League prospect "by a hair." Also, a scout Norris spoke to said Banuelos has better stuff than one of the greatest Yankee pitchers of all time, Whitey Ford.

The Yankees have a gem. Manny is lefty, throws in the mid-90s, has a dominant changeup, a powerful curveball, and tremendous poise on the mound. The kid has front-of-the-rotation written all over him. And he's only 20.

Estimated Time of Arrival: This is difficult. Ideally, I would love to see Banuelos spend all of 2011 in the minor leagues, throw about 130 innings, and possibly begin 2012 in the rotation. If he does not break camp with the big league club, I would expect him to start 2012 at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and get called up whenever the Yankees seem fit.

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Special thanks to Baseball-Reference, Frankie Piliere, Mike Axisa, and Ken Rosenthal in helping me write this prospect profile.