Bomber Bites With Jumping Joe–What Can Yankees Expect from Manny Banuelos in 2015


Once upon a time Manny Banuelos was the jewel of the Yankee farm system. Called the best pitching prospect he had ever seen, by no less an authority than future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. A lefty with a rocket arm destined to be a cross between Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte on the mound in the Bronx. Those days have long since passed.

Injuries and ineffectiveness have hampered Banuelos’s career the last few years. Banuelos missed the entire 2013 season after Tommy John surgery. In 2014, Banuelos started the season in High-A ball and progressed to Double-A and Triple-A over the course of the season. Overall his numbers we okay, but nothing spectacular. He went 2-3 with a 4.11 ERA and 71 strikeouts in only 76.2 innings. He also gave up 10 home runs during that time.  

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His status as the Yankees top pitching prospect has been overtaken several times over by the likes of Shane Greene, Ian Clarkin and most recently Luis Severino. While the other member of the Killer B prospects, Dellin Betances, was becoming the best reliever in the majors last season, Banuelos was simply trying to pitch again.

Mandatory Credit: Chad R. MacDonald.

So the Yankee announcement that Banuelos would be competing for a starting rotation position in spring training is a bit surprising. After all, despite it seeming like Banuelos has been around forever, he is only 23-years-old and hasn’t thrown over 100 innings in a professional season since 2011 when hit his career high of 129.2. The Yankees have been notorious for watching the innings count for their young pitchers so it’s unlikely that Banuelos will be allowed to throw much more than 100-110 innings, which would represent a sizable jump from this season.

We have seen the Yankees go to incredible lengths in preserving a young pitcher’s inning limit over the course of a season.  It is not that long ago that the Yankees tried the innings limit game with a young Joba Chamberlain. It didn’t work. It didn’t prevent injury to Joba and in essence ruined his career. It would be hopeful that the Yankees have learned from that massive blunder, but in reality there is too much potential for history to repeat itself.

The Yankees don’t need Banuelos to win a spot in the rotation. They have enough starters without him. CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Greene and David Phelps are more than adequate to start the season with Ivan Nova ready around the All-Star break. In case of injury, they still have Chase Whitley waiting in the wings. Plus the Yankees are still expected to sign a free agent or two such as Brandon McCarthy, even if they elect to forgo a run at Max Scherzer, James Shields, or Jon Lester. So why promise Banuelos a shot at the rotation?

The Yankees may be just dangling a carrot in front Banuelos hoping that he steps up his game and forces his way into their real plans. Perhaps they just want to let him give him the motivation needed for a big year in Triple-A, where he can get his innings limit before a real shot at the rotation in 2016. Or maybe the Yankees are just trying to artificially inflate his trade value.

Realistically, the best case scenario for Banuelos and the Yankees is a full year at Triple-A, in which Banuelos returns to his dominant form. Banuelos tosses around 110 innings for Scranton and makes everyone remember how high his ceiling was just a few years ago. Then he will be set up to go about 150 innings in 2016 and can actually be a useful part of the rotation.