An on going theme of 2010 for the Yankees has been the vast improvement of the minor league system. What was once barren has now been replenished. There may be some kinks to work out–a few more potential impact position players would be nice–but behind Jesus Montero, there are definitely some high quality arms we could see either this season or in the next one or two.
Adding to the praise of the revamped Yankee farm system is catching prospect Austin Romine. In a recent blog post by the Daily News’s Anthony McCarron, Romine spoke of the talent in the Yankees farm system.
“There are so many good pitchers in our organization and it’s being overlooked. DJ Mitchell, (David) Phelps, (Dellin) Betances, (Andrew) Brackman. They’re all really good. I had the good fortune to catch a few of them in Double A and see them go up and I’m really proud of that.
We’ve, rightly, heard a lot about Betances and Brackman this season. They both have high ceilings and made big strides this year. There’s still room to grow, though, as both need to stay healthy going forward. Brackman improved his control this year, cutting almost four (!!) walks per nine from his 2009 total. He kept his strikeout stuff, too, as he fanned 8.1 per nine (3.23 K/BB).
Betances pitched 85.1 innings in 2010, the second most of his career. He posted a career high 11.4 (!) K/9, while walking just 2.3 per nine (4.91 K/BB). If Big D can keep that performance up while still building up his innings, we could definitely see him in the Bronx in 2012.
Mitchell pitched 150.2 innings between Trenton (22 starts) and Scranton (3 starts). His WHIP was 1.400, but he did manage a 2.11 GB/FB rate at Trenton, as well as a 1.12 at Scranton. Aside from strikeout guys like Brackman and Betances, the Yankees should be focusing in groundball guys like Mitchell. While we’d probably like to see his K/9 creep over 7, as long as he gets grounders, we’ll be happy.
David Phelps had his second straight solid season in the Yankee system, posting a 3.92 K/BB and a 2.50 ERA across 158.2 innings between Trenton (88.1 IP) and Scranton (70.1 IP). Phelps pitches a lot of innings and gets good results; he’s another guy we could see make his debut in 2011.
Romine talked most about everyone’s favorite left hander, Manny Banuelos:
Banuelos out here was lights out in (the AFL All-Star game). That was one of the top starts I’ve seen.
“That’s tough for a 19 year old kid. Ninety percent of the guys on that field (in the AFL A-S game) are going to the big leagues and he came out and to pitch the way he did, he should be nothing but confident now. And I love seeing him gaining that confidence every month, it seems like, from when I got him from high A. He came up wide-eyed, a young kid. I didn’t know who he was and he was throwing gas. To see him mature over that time is great. He’s only 19 now and that’s young and he’s mature over his years.”
It looks like Romine saved his biggest praise for Banuelos and it’s well deserved. Of all the players mentioned, he probably has the best combination of upside and likelihood. Despite an appendectomy, Banuelos still managed to strike out 11.8 batters per nine innings while walking 3.5 per nine (3.40 K/BB). That 3.5 BB/9 is a bit inflated by bigger walk numbers in small appearances in the GCL and Trenton. In the place where he spent the most time, Tampa, Banuelos walked just 2.8 per nine.
I expect that we’ll be hearing big things out of all of these pitchers in 2011, Banuelos most of all. With each passing year, I get more and more pleasure out of following these guys in the minors. The best part of that is with each passing year, these guys get closer and closer to the big leagues.