There was never any doubt from the second that Manny Banuelos took the Waterfront Park mound for the first time as a 19-year-old on August 23, 2010 that he was a supremely talented southpaw who would move through the Yankees system quickly. Granted, the line that night wasn’t anything to get excited about (5.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 HR, 3 BB, 6 K), but the stuff was.
And the stuff still is exciting to watch. Always has been, likely always will be. But the part about moving quickly? In my opinion, he was promoted too soon.
He’s now 20 years old, won’t be 21 until March of 2012. But it even isn’t that. There’s just so much to work on. He hasn’t progressed, again in my opinion, this season. Hasn’t regressed (despite a 2-5 record and 4.99 ERA in his last 10 starts and 1.53 WHIP on the season) but hasn’t progressed either. And, in theory, call-ups should be made on progression in a case like Banuelos’.
He is very, very good, but there is very, very much that still needs to be worked on. Two things that stand out are fastball command and pitch efficiency, which likely go hand in hand.
Banuelos made 20 starts and lasted just 95 1/3 innings. That’s a little more than five innings per start, and given that he was kept on a pitch count of 95-100 and not any sort of innings count, well…he needs to go longer than that in a start in Double-A, no less Triple-A or even in the big leagues. The Monterrey, Mexico native also walked at least one batter in each of those 20 starts, issuing three or more free passes in 11 of them.
Despite a hot start in which he held a 2.12 ERA through his first ten outings, Banuelos seemed to lose his way in the second half his tenure with the Thunder. He posted ERA’s of 5.20 and 4.15 in June and July, respectively, and the opposition was batting .292 against him during that span. After not having allowed a home run in April and May, he gave up seven between June and July.
Perhaps the opposition had figured him out. And not just in the second half of the season…but in the second time around the order, too. Banuelos’ ERA in the first, second and third innings were 3.15, 1.80 and 2.25. In the fourth, fifth and sixth? 4.82, 5.93, 6.75. In 20 starts, he pitched into sixth three times and the seventh just once.
So, especially now, there was a lot he needed to figure out. Given that he has just 311 minor league innings under his belt, that’s not to be unexpected. But he’ll get to do it in Scranton instead, and well…good for him. Banuelos was a nice kid who always had a smile and “what’s up” for everyone and it’s hard not to pull for him.
But given the events of the past two months…and it seems a little surprising that its fans at PNC Field and not Waterfront Park that will be getting a chance to do just that.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com