Hundreds of major and minor league players are slowly returning to action, all eager to further their careers and win a championship. Count Manny Banuelos as one of them.
The once-rocket armed lefty hasn’t pitched in a game since 2012, but feels that he has finally overcome his injuries. “This is my year” said Banuelos last Saturday. The Mexico native has been fighting arm injuries, and has undergone Tommy John surgery to repair his tear.
It would be a little surprising for Banuelos to start the season firing healthy heat: the typical 96 mph he was throwing pre-2012 compared to 92 mph now. Even if he regained his velocity, the Yankees would be very cautious with the 22-year-old starter. Three seasons removed from earning the 13th top prospect by MLB.com, Banuelos hasn’t proved he can dominate Double-A ball yet, striking out a batter an inning, but surrendering too many base runners. It would make more sense to either limit his innings count (not drastically, maybe in the 130 inning range) or convert him into a middle relief pitcher. Newly signed Matt Thornton has been inconsistent throughout his career, sometimes pitching excellently, sometimes not so much. Plus, Thornton is 37-years-old. Looking at pitchers such as Darren Oliver and Jose Contreras provides hope for the new Yankee, but it never hurts to have an extra option. Banuelos could be a late roster addition as an extra arm.
Besides, the Yankees don’t need another starting pitcher. C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova, and a combination of David Phelps, Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno, and Michael Pineda (who is in the same boat) build a solid starting foundation. Banuelos as a ninth starter is superfluous.
Most importantly, the Yankees need to make sure Banuelos’s arm has recuperated. Without his left arm, his pitching prospects are gone. Even if Banuelos has to toil in the minors for this season, which is the most likely possibility, Banuelos is still young enough to reach the Major Leagues well before his prime.