Banuelos should pitch well in Double-A before being promoted

The short answer is “maybe.” Inspired by a comment from reader Joe, I compared the innings totals thrown in the minors by the last crop of pitchers the Yankees tried to develop and a sampling of pitchers developed by the Tampa Bay Rays.

The trend line here is a little muddled. The Rays have the two largest innings counts by far, but then Hughes and Kennedy are 3rd and 4th. The most striking number is Joba Chamberlain‘s, who easily threw the fewest amount of innings. Price seems to be a bit of an outlier for Tampa Bay, but he was also a very high draft pick who had come out of college and made it to the big league rotation pretty quickly after a brief stint in the bullpen at the end of 2008.

I bring the Rays up to compare the treatment of the Yankees current relievers to the Rays’ new young stud, Matt Moore. Moore is now the best pitching prospect in baseball according to Keith Law, Moore was recently promoted to Triple-A by the Rays after 102.1 innings pitched at Double-A and 444 total minor league innings. Banuelos is getting his promotion after 110 career Double-A innings and 311 career minor league innings. However, the big difference between Moore, the Yankees’ “Big Three” and Banuelos is in terms of results. Here’s a comparison of their peripherals at the Double-A level:

That should put an end to any discussion of promoting Banuelos on the spot. Whatever you may think of the way the Yankees handled Hughes, Joba, and Kennedy, at least there’s no question that they showed strong performance in the high minors. And when you add Moore, Banuelos’ relative lack of production is even more striking. He’s allowed almost twice as many hits per nine innings as any of the other pitchers, and he’s the only one with a single digit strikeout rate, the only one with a walk rate over 4 (just a few walks away from being over 5 per nine innings, at that), and the only one with a strikeout to walk ration below 3.0, much less below 2.0. More worrisome is that this is certainly out of character for Banuelos, as he’s done much better in the low minors, and has been struggling since being promoted to Double-A.

The conclusion to draw from this is pretty clear; no matter how well he might scout or what his future potential is, Banuelos hasn’t come close to mastering Double-A in his first taste of the high minors, and a promotion now simply isn’t warranted either in terms of production, age, or time spent at his current level. I fear the Yankees are looking at Banuelos through rose colored glasses and rushing him to contribute in the Bronx in the best case scenario, trying to justify their decision not to include him in any potential deadline deals at the worst. Whatever the case, this decision strikes me as unwarranted, reckless, and potentially disastrous for another top young pitcher in this organization.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

23 thoughts on “Banuelos should pitch well in Double-A before being promoted

  1. Bill

    I see it as: He was trade bait. No trades worked out. Might as well drop in AAA and see how he does then. What's the difference at this point? They can either wait until next year… where his trade value would drop simply because other teams would be thinking "He is STILL in AA? And his numbers are still mediocre? He isn't worth much in a trade then."

    I think Yankee management looked at what they believe the 2012 Free Agency crop will be and decided to go "all in" on their pitchers and take the risk that they will fail miserably at AAA. Worst case scenario, Banuelos' mediocrity will be exposed fully. He has no trade value today as it stands.

    • fubar

      "He has no trade value today as it stands." That statement is utterly ridiculous.

      • Bill

        Why would the Yankees trade him for a player in 2011 when they cannot add that player to the 2011 postseason roster? Hence, he has no trade value as it stands.

        • PrinceNasim

          what do you mean? I thought any player who is added to the roster before september 1 is playoff eligible. So your statement still makes no sense.

  2. Yonkees

    Aren't you the guy who wanted Banuelos on the Major League roster to start the season this year?

    • BrienJackson

      Don't think so, no. I remember saying that if the Yankees thought he was a) ready and b) one of their 5 best starters he should have been in the competition, but that's a conditional statement.

  3. not Montero's dad

    Ther Rays are a bad comparison. They tend to keep their players in the minors longer to control service time. (See Desmond Jennings as the recent example…he's had almost 1000 ABs in AAA!)

    • JP.

      Excellent point. I'd need to see a much broader set of comparisons.

      Still, the basic point that Banuelos has still had some struggles in AA is true.

    • BrienJackson

      Well, conversely, David Price shot through 3 levels of the minors and pitched in the majors in 2008, the year after he was drafted.

      • not Montero's dad

        I think the Rays astill tend to keep guys in the minors. Even think back to 2008 when Longoria didn't make the team out of spring training, then was brought up 10 days later and signed a long term deal. If the Rays thoguth he was good enough to be called up on April 12, and good enough to sign to a long term deal, then he would have made the team out of ST. But their intention had been to keep him there until they needed him (Aybar injury). When they realized that this wasn't possible, due to performance, they signed him to a long term deal very quickly.

    • Hank

      The only way you really control things is through the super 2 (and in that case it becomes more of an issue around whether you get an extra year at league minimum vs an extra arbitraion year).

      Each player gets 6 years prior to FA and most of the manipulation is around avoiding that extra arbitration year.

      I know people like to say well the Rays are trying to save a buck…but they are also ensuring the player is actually ready. The financial impact of this is that the six years of control they have on the player doesn't involve 1 or 2 years of a learning curve at suboptimal value.

      • BrienJackson

        If a player spends ~20 days in the minors, he doesn't get credit for a full year of service, thereby delaying his free agency. That's what the Rays did with Longoria.

  4. Yonkees

    I agree that Manny is probably not ready for a promotion to AAA in the traditional sense, but it is still the minor leagues. Nothing wrong with challenging him at a higher level when the games still don't mean anything. I'll be upset if he gets promoted to the REAL team before he has good numbers.

    It is pointless to compare two organizations to each other using these numbers. Every player is different, and every team is different. Everyone has holes in their roster at different times, and evey scout sees things a little differently. Organizations have depth issues at different positions at different points in time. I'm sure each of these players has a unique story and path to the bigs. The Yankees see Banuelos's ceiling as a good major league pitcher, might as well toss him into AAA and see how long it takes him to figure out. What could be "disastrous" about that?

    • BrienJackson

      Well, using that standard, why ever have a good prospect ever bother with the lower minors? Just draft/sign them and stick them right in Triple-A?

      • Yonkees

        That would be a pretty big AAA roster wouldn't it? He is the Yankees top pitching prospect, it isn't that crazy to put him in the top level of the minors. Besides, his lefty on lefty splits are pretty darn good, he can come up to the Bronx and be a LOOGY of he replicates that in AAA, either this season or next:

        Vs. RHB – 66.1 ip, 4.61 ERA, 62:41 K:BB, 1.2 Ground-outs:Air-outs

        Vs. LHB – 29 ip, 1.24 ERA, 32:11 K:BB, 2.1 GO:AO

        • BrienJackson

          A) Being the top pitching prospect doesn't equate being ready for the highest level of the minors. Those scoutings and rankings involve accounting for a player's projected ceiling.

          B) If Banuelos is ever a LOOGY in the bigs I will be supremely angry.

          • CS Yankee

            You got to be kidding.

            If ManBan can add value as he reaches his ceiling for IP in 2011, that would be great. He is near 100, might test him against better bats in AAA & if seems well come september call him up as a LOOGY. If he does extremely well as a LOOGY, add him to the P-S roster.

            He'll likely start in AAA in 2012 or as the 5th SP in NY.

            All is good.

  5. David

    Interestingly, during the ESPN Live Chats they were asked if Banuelos was as good as advertised and Bowden said he was better. And this was after this season in AA where his walk-rate is higher than liked. Unclear how that ties in here, but figured it was worth mentioning…

    • CS Yankee

      His walks are too high but we don't know how they are instructing him…

      His PC could be telling him to go Curve for the out pitch as we know you can K him on gas in AA, but you'll need to throw all pitches, in all counts, come big leagues.

  6. Michael

    Price didnt need much seasoning in the minors he had gotten most of it in college. He was ready. And also you can just say what worked for player A will work for player B. Every human being is different and responds differently to different workout regimes. Some people have rubber arms you can toss out there and expect 200 innings from the get go like a Felix. Some take a while before they develop into one of the best pitchers in the game like Lee. I dont mind the promotion to AAA so much as it concerns me with the overall handling of Banuelos and Betances. I do not want to see them ever out of the pen, nor do i want them to ever make it to the majors without proper seasoning in the minors. Rushing pitchers up to the big leagues has a more dire consequence in the AL East then it does in other divisions bc of the steep learning curve

  7. Michael

    Also I said this in a previous post, I would rather see DJ Mitchell, Adam Warren, Ivan Nova, Hector Noesi, David Phelps make starts this year instead of Banuelos and Betances. Let them get spot starts and show baseball their competence (hopefully) which will further enhance their trade value rather than rush two kids who might not be ready. If Banuelos and Betances are the future than there isnt much room in the rotation for these guys going forward anyway as the Yankees will never lean on that many young pitchers.

  8. smcsk8

    I'd be interested to see other young starting pitchers progression through the minors, on other teams. For example, the Giants have 4 homegrown starters, some of whom pitched in college and others who didn't. How long were Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, and Bumgarner in the minors, at what level, how many innings, how many innings in the majors the first year, were they in the 'pen or in the rotation, etc…

    Other teams too. That's a lot of work to ask, but I'm too lazy to look it up myself…

    Anyhow, I concur that Banuelos should be mastering his command at Double A and Triple A before joining the team in the Bronx. If that means, waiting a year, so be it. Better to get him when he knows what he's doing than to set him up for failure.

  9. Mister D

    I Would think Man Ban's promotion was as much to replace Nova as anything. I just think the Yankees have no intention of returning Ivan Nova back to Scranton (short of disaster).

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