New York Yankees: Scouting Manny Banuelos
We have talked about possible trades and free agents for the New York Yankees, but I think it is time to look in-depth at a promising Yankee prospect.
Manny Banuelos started the 2011 season in Double-A Trenton Thunder before being promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Banuelos started the season as Baseball America's 41st overall prospect and ended the season as the fourth-best left-handed pitching prospect on MLB.com.
Let's look at Manny Banuelos' strengths and weaknesses.
Despite Manny Banuelos' 5'11", 155-pound frame he gets a very good downward angle on his pitches due to his high three-quarter arm angle.
Banuelos does not have the height, stride length or arm length of Randy Johnson or CC Sabathia, but he throws his fastball in the mid-90s because of the excellent extension of his pitching arm.
Manny Banuelos has a very smooth and repeatable delivery that should remain consistent and protect him from shoulder and elbow injuries.
Manny Banuelos has a rocket for an arm.
Banuelos averages about 95 mph on his four-seam fastball but has reached 98 mph. He is only 20 years old so he could add an extra mile per hour or two to his fastball, but as of right now it is already an exceptional pitch.
His fastball is not just fast, it is very deceiving and therefore a perfect swing-and-miss pitch.
Manny Banuelos' best pitch is his changeup. When Banuelos needs a strikeout he leans on his changeup.
Banuelos' changeup averages about 80 mph, and because it looks just like a fastball upon delivery the 15 mph difference between it and his fastball makes it almost impossible to hit.
When he locates his changeup down and away it is unhittable due to its two-seam action and huge drop right before it reaches the plate.
Manny Banuelos improved his curveball dramatically in 2010.
Banuelos' consistently throws a back-door curveball due to its amount of lateral movement. Banuelos' curveball may not be his best pitch but it is a true plus pitch, and when he keeps on top of it and keeps it down in the strike zone it can be flat-out dirty.
Watch to see if Banuelos can improve his curveball in 2012 in Triple-A because if it can become a true swing-and-miss "Type-A" pitch he will be tough to hit.
Manny Banuelos started out 2011 by having Baseball America call his best attribute his command. That has changed. In 2008 and 2009 he kept his BB/nine around 2.5, but in 2010 it rose to 3.5 BB/nine and then in 2011 it rose to a staggering 4.9 BB/nine. Banuelos still owns a respectable 2.58 career K/BB but he will have to work on his command if he wants to be an elite starting pitcher.
A year or two with of more experience and teaching from Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild should help his command greatly.
Future in New York
Manny Banuelos has the talent and potential to become an ace, but he will have to work on his command.
If I were to compare Banuelos to a current major league pitcher it would be Oakland A's ace Gio Gonzalez.
Gonzalez is 6' and 205 pounds so he has a similar build to Manny Banuelos. Gonzalez is also a lefty with excellent stuff, including a Banuelos-like mid-90s fastball, a devastating 84 mph changeup and a 80 mph curveball as his three best pitches.
Not enough for you? How about Gio Gonzalez's 4.09 BB/nine and 2.01 K/BB over the last two seasons.
Due to his higher velocity, age and a better pitching coach in Larry Rothschild Manny Banuelos should exceed Gio Gonzalez in the matter of a few years.