The Yankees' top prospect from 2012 missed most of the season to injury and is set to miss all of 2013 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Can he regain his top prospect status when he returns?
Name: Manny Banuelos
Position: Starting Pitcher (LHP)
Age as of Opening Day 2013: 22 (born 3/13/1991)
Height: 5'11" Weight: 200 pounds
Remaining Contract: Under team control with three years of minor league service time
2012 Statistics: (AAA) 6 games, 0-2, 24 IP, 4.50 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 8.25 K/9, 3.75 BB/9
Manny Banuelos was signed by the Yankees in 2008 out of the Mexican League and has been impressing pretty much everyone since that point, making it to the 2009 All-Star Futures Game and to the top of nearly every Yankee prospect list after the departure of Jesus Montero last winter. Lumped in with Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman because they share the same first letter of their last name, Banuelos was billed to be the next big lefty pitcher to come out of the farm system. His smaller stature makes him the exception rather than the rule, as far as pitchers go, but he manages an impressive fastball, and above-average curveball and changeup in his arsenal, despite his size.
To this point, the Killer B's of the Yankees' farm system have been somewhat varying degrees of disappointing. Andrew Brackman was shipped out of town when the contract he probably should have never been given was up, Dellin Betances was getting lit up in AA Trenton as late as this past fall and isn't getting any younger, and Manny Banuelos was barely heard from in 2012 thanks to injuries that ultimately ended with requiring Tommy John surgery before 2013. This time last year, it may have looked like at least one, or both, of the remaining Killer B's would be cracking the major league roster for 2013, but that now seems like the longest of long shots with Banuelos on the shelf and Betances being terrible.
Possibly Banuelos' biggest moment with the Yankees likely came in 2011 Spring Training against the Red Sox, allowing two hits in 2.2 innings against the Sox' A-team. His age and throwing hand made his prospect status soar, but once he makes it back on the field after his recovery, it will almost certainly be at AAA for a while more, which will mean he's no longer at an advanced level for his age like he once was. All of that can be forgotten if he returns with all the promise he had prior to 2012, but until then, questions will remain on whether the Yankees are truly doing a good job of developing their minor league talent, particularly in the pitching department.
The best we can hope for now is to see Banuelos break into the majors sometime during the 2014 season, maybe around the All-Star break. With Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and possibly Phil Hughes all departing from the big league rotation, and the budgetary restrictions firmly in place, ManBan's ascent to the next level will be watched very closely and will likely be necessary with minimal setbacks to actually help fill the five spots in the order on more limited financial means. Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a pitching prospect, as the saying goes, and all that promise does not guarantee successful futures. Here's hoping Manny lives up to the praise that so many were willing to heap upon him as the next great homegrown Yankee pitcher, but don't hold your breath just yet, because we've all heard those promises too many times before.