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.