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Takeaway From Manny Banuelos First Game Since 2012

Manny Banuelos, the Yankees one-time super prospect pitched in a live game for the first time since undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2012.  His final line of 2/3 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K may seem very underwhelming but may be the best possible scenario for Banuelos and the Yankees. There was some thought within the organization that a strong spring from the prospect may lead to him making the major league team as a left-handed reliever. Hopefully, this performance will silence those ideas and reinforce the notion to send Banuelos directly to Triple-A.

Manny Banuelos signed with the Yankees in 2008 as a 17-year-old and quickly rose through the Yankee farm system. He participated in the All-Star Futures Game in 2009 and was ranked in the top 50 MLB prospects by 2011. Then in 2012 he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed most of the 2012 season and all of 2013. However, despite the fact that he has been in the system for several years, he will not celebrate his 23rd birthday until next week.  He still has a ton of potential and a lot of career in front of him.

Before going under the knife, Banuelos could occasionally touch 96 or 97 mph with his fastball, though he tended to hover at 93-94 most of the time. In today’s action, he showed good mechanics and easy velocity, hitting 93 MPH on the fastball.  His location, however, was suspect often high in the zone which led to some hard hit balls, including a towering homer off the bat of Chris Carter. The appearance overall was very encouraging as Banuelos showed no signs of a setback in his recovery and foreshadowed a return to form. That is exactly why he should be among the first cuts next week and sent down to minor league camp.

A potential frontline starter is infinitely more valuable and harder to find than a mere lefty for the bullpen. Banuelos is not a second-tier prospect such as David Phelps or Adam Warren who projected only to a 4 or 5 starter.  Banuelos was called the best starting prospect ever in Yankee a uniform by no less an authority than Mariano Rivera in 2011.  There will most likely be at least open rotation spot on the Yankees in 2015 with the likely retirement of Hiroki Kuroda. The Yankees need to plan for the future and have Banuelos spend the entire 2014 season in Triple-A Scranton to get his inning count up to a respectable level that he can provide a full season for the major league club next year.

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