Scouting Yankees Prospect #3: Manny Banuelos

Banuelos is the complete package

The Yankees signed left-handed pitcher Manny Banuelos out of Mexico back in February of 2008 in a package that included Alfredo Aceves. Since that time, despite his youth, he has become one of the most intriguing and complete pitching prospects in the organization.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Manny Banuelos
Position: Pitcher
DOB: March 13, 1991
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 180
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

The teenager went 9-5 with a 2.67 ERA for the Charleston Riverdogs and posted nearly a four to one strikeout to walk ratio as one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League.

"I think the biggest thing with Manny was to get some experience under his belt. We got him over one hundred innings and he looked strong the whole year. I think he did a really good job from day one," Charleston manager Torre Tyson said.

He allowed three earned runs or more in just two of his starts the entire year and his ERA remained under 3.00 from the beginning of June until the end of the season, a feat of consistency seldom found even in older pitchers.

"What I really like about him is how he's been going about his business all summer long," Charleston pitching coach Jeff Ware told PinstripesPlus.com. "He has shown that he knows how to pitch in some of the difficult situations he's been in.

"When he has been in trouble he handles himself very well, which is great for an 18 year old. And it's also great for this level."

What makes his statistical performance even more impressive was that he put together such a strong season while having one of his better pitches evade him for most of the season.

Boasting a plus curveball in 2008 and once again during Spring Training, he inexplicably lost it once he got into the long-season leagues and he spent the better part of the year rediscovering it.

"He did develop a plus curveball," Yankees minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras said. "Early in the season he had a slow breaking curveball that he threw for strikes but it wasn't a pitch to get Major League hitters out.

"So working with Jeff Ware, Manny developed a swing and miss curveball that should carry him into the higher levels. This kid is going to be 19 years old next year and he has a great future ahead of him."

Perhaps the biggest reason why everyone who has watched him pitched is so convinced that Banuelos has such a strong future is due to his overall maturity on the mound.

"I think Manny Banuelos is a 30-year old pitching in an 18-year old's body," said former Charleston teammate David Phelps. "Talk about somebody who is able to simplify pitching, you watch the kid throw whatever he's throwing, it's like baseball moves in slow motion for Manny."

Pitch-ability and command are his signature trademarks, but the fact is he has also has some pretty nasty stuff too.

"I think he can be very, very good," Tyson opined. "He's a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher at worst for me. I think he's got the ability to be a #2 guy on a championship caliber team.

"I'm watching these guys like [Cole] Hamels and Cliff Lee and those are two of the best lefties in the game right now, and I wouldn't be surprised if by their age he's better than they are.

"Manny's going to have an explosive fastball, so he's going to have a plus fastball. He already has a plus changeup, which is probably going to be a plus-plus Cole Hamels type changeup. Then he's got very good spin to his breaking ball, which he couldn't get down in the zone and command it, but who can do that at 18.

"That spin is going to stay there and that command and control is going to get better with it. I'm very high on him. I don't see why he couldn't be at worst a middle-of-the-rotation guy."

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2009

Tampa

0-0

0

1.0

0

0

2

0.00

2009

Charleston

9-5

0

108.0

88

28

104

2.67

2008

GCL Yankees

4-1

0

42.0

32

13

37

2.57



Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.

Fastball. Fastball-wise, Banuelos is a left-handed version of David Robertson in that he sits mostly in the 90-93 mph range but it is his late, explosive life on his fastball that gives it the appearance that it is coming in quicker. He averaged 91-92 mph in 2009 and he did top out at 96 mph once when he was moved into the bullpen late in the season, so there are signs that his fastball could improve a tick or two on the radar gun as he gets older.

Other Pitches. What also makes his fastball so effective is his plus changeup. His arm action is a mirror image of his fastball and with the tremendous fading and running action he gets with it, it not only makes it a strikeout weapon but it makes his fastball a big strikeout weapon too. His curveball was actually his favorite pitch prior to the start of the 2009 season but he lost it for a good portion of the year. Working hard to get it back actually made it a better pitch when it did return, throwing it with a bit harder break. He can throw it for strikes, but unlike his other two pitches, he can't command it where he wants in the strike zone just yet.

Pitching. Banuelos simply knows how to pitch. He uses a very aggressive approach, he is mature enough to mix in all three pitches, he knows he to keep them off-balance, and he has the stuff to put away batters. Because he is so aggressive in the zone, it does make him very efficient with his pitch counts and that allows him to pitch deeper into games. He is the ideal professional too. He doesn't get rattled when the going gets tough and he has the ability to make quick adjustments for a pitcher so young. He has plus makeup.

Projection. Some pundits point to his smaller stature and lack of consistent mid-90s fastball to knock down his future big league projection. While those two limiting factors might not make him a big league ace someday, few pitchers offer his kind of complete package. Because of that he projects safely as a future big league middle of the rotation starter at minimum and he can pitch better than that on any given night. Where he settles into a major league rotation will play itself out. The bigger point is, barring a serious injury, he will be in a big league rotation someday.

ETA. 2012. Banuelos, who already made the Futures Game roster last year, will anchor the Tampa Yankees rotation in 2010. He has no glaring weaknesses in his game and could be big league ready within two years at the tender age of twenty-one.

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