And while the injury is bad enough in and of itself, taken in conjunction with the way the 2012 season went for the organization’s top pitching prospects as a whole it’s a total disaster. Dellin Betances was obviously a total disaster who had to be sent back down to Double-A, but there’s a fairly good chance that Betances just isn’t a good enough pitcher to ever make it past that level. It’s the injuries to Banuelos and Jose Campos that are particularly worrisome. Campos, you’ll recall, injured his elbow early in the season and went on to miss the rest of the season from that point on, even though the injury was said to be non-structural. The last update we got on his status was that he was still feeling soreness in his elbow and was not on a full throwing program just yet. As for Banuelos, it would appear that whatever caused the need for surgery is a recent development meaning that, in shades reminiscent of Michael Pineda‘s torn labrum, Manny made the injury worse while rehabbing.
In general, I think the Yankees’ supposed inability to develop players, especially pitchers, is somewhat overblown. After all, guys like David Phelps, Ivan Nova, Ian Kennedy, and Phil Hughes didn’t just pop up out of nowhere, to say nothing of Jesus Montero, Austin Jackson, and Robinson Cano. That said, the handling of Banuelos has been confusing to me for over a year, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that they really rushed him through Double-A before he was ready for a promotion. Did that contribute to his injury? It’s impossible to say, but it can’t necessarily be ruled out either.
There will certainly be calls for heads to roll over this, and maybe they should. I don’t think the Yankees are so good in the area of amateur scouting or player development that anyone’s job should be safe this winter, and it’s possible that Billy Connors has already served as the fall guy for this, but injuries and rehab is far too murky an area to pass that sort of judgment on from where I sit. What I do know is that this thins out the Yankees’ farm system quite a bit, especially in terms of starting pitching, and that if we leave Betances out of the question, the closest impact arm that’s not injured the Yankees have at the moment is 2012 first rounder Ty Hensley, and he has some sort of “shoulder abnormality.” Most of the time, it wouldn’t be all that hard for the Yankees to use their financial might to paper over the problem with free agent acquisitions like Hiroki Kuroda, but that’s going to be awfully hard to do once 2014 rolls around under the current mandate.
It was always going to be a tough proposition to field a quality team then with the $189 million cap, and the Yankees needed a lot of things to break in their favor with respect to their young players, and so far only Phelps has come up a positive for them. The Banuelos news is the worst yet, however, and may come the closest to forcing the Yankees’ front office to consider long and hard how willing they are to sacrifice winning for compliance with Bud Selig’s “soft” cap.