There used to be two Yankees prospects here. Now there is one.
For reasons unbeknownst to me, people absolutely love lists. Top tens, top 25, power rankings; they're everywhere, they're completely arbitrary and even still, they bring out incredibly visceral reactions. Why is this team so high? Why is my team so low? Why don't you love my favorite player like I love my favorite player? I'm guilty of it, you're guilty of it and no matter how much we try to fight it, with each new list comes a new round of arguments.
I'm usually pretty good about ignoring lists. They are rarely ever static so why do I need this list when there will be a new list in a week? But try as I might, prospect lists always seem to draw me in. All of them. If I have to explain myself, I'll attribute it to the fact that they're usually only produced once a year. A list using a one year sample size is slightly more meaningful than one week. Only slightly, though.
When you're dealing with a prospect list you kind of have the expectation that you're going to be waiting awhile. Where power rankings and week-to-week top tens give you the instant gratification of knowing who a random somebody or nobody thinks is good or bad, prospect lists give you hope for the future. If you look at any of the Yankees lists, you know we're really going to be waiting awhile.
Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez, Jose Campos or any of the other players typically listed in the top ten aren't going to contribute for awhile, but we understand and accept it. Why should they have to? Let them be young, you savages. They aren't close to the majors so we just kind of go with it. The prospects in Triple-A are the ones we expect to contribute reasonably soon. Not Dellin Betances, though. Consistently ranked as one of the top prospects in the system, the expectation that he be ready to contribute soon should be ever present. It isn't. At least not in the way we would expect from a top prospect. For a number of reasons, we're stuck in what feels like an endless loop waiting for Betances.
Betances has always flashed the ability to be the guy we've been told he can be. Big fastball, power curve, third-pitch changeup; we know the story. He's just never been able to put it all together for any significant stretch of time as he moved up the ranks. To tease that kind of ability and not string it together means he's either wildly inconsistent or a jerk. I don't think he's a jerk, so it has to be the former. He probably could be a jerk if he wanted to; the guy is a giant. Throw Manny Banuelos against his locker and take his lunch money or something. Of course that isn't the case, but it's funny to imagine.
Inconsistency, as it relates to Betances, almost always means inability to avoid walks. It has always been the walks. You expect batters to be more patient at the higher levels, but at the same time, you would expect a progression with command. The former has certainly happened; it's the latter that's holding Betances back.
I really don't know what to say. There will no doubt be words after this, but the point stands. We keep waiting and waiting for the improvements to come and they never do. I guess you could qualify lowering his FIP by about a run and his BB/9 by one in the last month as improvement, but would you? Would you, really? They're technically improvements, just not in the grand scheme of things. He's still walking way too many batters, still falling behind too much, and it's killing his ability to get swings and misses. His curveball is such a powerful weapon to put hitters away with from what I've seen, but what good is it when he's hesitant to throw it because he's constantly behind in the count? The numbers across the board are so vastly inflated from a year and level ago that it's difficult to make heads or tails of what the team is supposed to do with him.
All things considered, it's hard to believe the window for Betances to be a starter is open more than a sliver. The odds are really stacked against him at this point. Even if he puts the inconsistency behind him for the rest of the season, it's going to be difficult to forget that other guy lurking in the background. He's always going to be there watching; waiting for an inopportune moment to reappear. At the same time, they can't just quit on him as a starter. There's no guarantee his arsenal would play up out of the pen and the only way to test it is to either call him up, or relegate him to the Triple-A pen. Neither of those things can happen. They could, in the truest sense of the word, bring him up to the majors if they wanted to; it just seems like a useless endeavor. Scattered appearances over varying inning totals aren't going to fix a wild fastball. For a lot of the same reasons, he can't be sent to the pen for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to test the play up theory. Putting him in the pen in the minors is an awful waste of resources when there are no viable options to replace him in the rotation, and really, they can't give up on an arm like his.
It's a difficult spot for the team to be in, yet it's not completely unfamiliar. Call it the Phil Hughes syndrome. The potential is too great to effectively quit on his career as a starter, even if it is getting a little late in the game. We're stuck waiting for him to either turn things around or completely wash out as a starter. Odds are against either of those happening simply because of the stuff; so we wait. He will likely continue to do Betances things in the foreseeable future; throw an eight-inning gem, throw a grand total of 10.1 innings and look awful next three times out, then cap it off with a good, not great performance. Such is the life of waiting on Dellin Betances.
So we wait and wait and probably wait some more. Then we'll continue to wait. What else can we do? But wait! How long can we be expected to wait? Train's leaving; it won't wait forever.