The Killer B’s; A cautionary tale of prospect hugging

The year was 2011. The Yankees had failed to make it to the World Series in 2010 after winning it all in 2009. It was disappointing, but the 2009 World Series Title winning performance was still fresh in all of our minds, and there was reason for hope that future Yankees teams would be younger, more talented, and better. A big part of that hope came in the form of three prospects, all whose last name began with ‘B.’

Giving the Manny Banuelos injury and eventual surgery some time to sink in, there has been plenty of time to reflect on everything that has happened. Now there’s even the benefit of knowing what the Yankees administration has chosen to do about these failures, with the hiring of Gil Patterson and reassignment of Nardi Contreras. Seemingly this was a necessary move. Regardless of whether you view the trials and tribulations of these three players as a flaw in organizational philosophy, coaching, or just pure bad luck one thing remains true. While it is virtuous to hang onto prospects, it doesn’t pay to get to attached to any single one of them. In this case, it turned out to be frustrating even if you supported these three as a bundle.

Andrew Brackman was probably the biggest flash in the pan of all of them. When it comes down to it he really only had one good season. You could take it a step further and say he only had half of a good season. Regardless, fans had high hopes for him after the 2010 season, where he dominated Double-A with a 3.0 ERA and 70 K in 80 IP in the second half of the season. Baseball America ranked him the #78 prospect in all of baseball before the 2011 season, but that would be the last time he would make the top 100 list. He fell off completely the following year and lost all control. He was last seen pitching in High-A, where he stumbled to a 5.52 ERA.

The second ‘B’ lasted a little bit longer, but so far the results haven’t been all that different. Dellin Betances still has some value left in him as a possible reliever, but his time is running out quickly. The truth of the matter is that no one knows if he will even work out in the bullpen. If he continues to suffer with control as he has, it won’t matter how good his stuff is.

Before the 2011 season, he was the #48 prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America. By the 2012 season, his ranking fell to #63. After his disastrous 2012 season, there’s no reason to think he’ll be in the top 100 for the 2013 version of Baseball America’s list. In 2010 he managed a 2.11 ERA over 85+ innings, striking out 108 batters. In 2011 he was challenged in Double-A and Triple-A, with a 3.7 ERA and 142 K in 126.1 IP.

There was a red flag that came along with this season, which was the 70 walks he dished out. This was foreshadowing. In 2012, he finished with a 6.44 ERA and a whopping 99 walks in 131.1 innings. His silver lining was his 124 strikeouts. One bad season does not destroy your prospect status, but lack of control is one thing teams can’t tolerate in the majors. He still may be salvageable as a reliever, but that may be wishful thinking.

Then there’s Manny Banuelos. For a while he was the golden boy. The little lefty was the one guy who had truly maintained his value of the three to start the 2012 season. Then he got injured. The injury seems to have been mishandled or misdiagnosed, as he went almost a full season with no surgery, only to find out that he would need surgery after all. He will now miss the entire 2013 season while recovering from elbow surgery. Of the three, he still has the most chance to pan out as the ace starter all were hoping to become. He’s still young and Tommy John Surgery is by no means a career ender.

The #29 Baseball America prospect before 2012, his status will no doubt suffer after this injury. He will still be 23 when he returns though, which still gives him the chance to contribute. Hopefully he will make it back, but now we will all have to wait much longer than initially anticipated to see if he ever does.

So what does all of this teach us? Should we just give up on all hope that the Yankees will ever develop an ace? Should we just go back to trading away all of our young pitching and hitting prospects because they’re all destined to fail? I would argue that this would be foolish. While the Yankees have had some bad luck and possibly some bad managing and philosophies over the past decade, there is reason for some optimism. First of all, they have made a managerial change which could improve things. Secondly, there is a new wave of prospects who could have better luck than the last one.

If anything, what this should teach us is that the percentage of these hyped, Baseball America top 100 pitchers that actually pan out into aces is low. If and when the Yankees manage to finally develop one, we can all think back to these times and remember just how lucky we are to have a young ace.

This entry was posted in BBDP, Editorial and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Killer B’s; A cautionary tale of prospect hugging

  1. @DevilRey says:

    Great, great article. Brackman was crap, Betances will probably end up a reliever, and there's still some hope for Banuelos.

  2. chiggie says:

    I for one think it is a combination of bad and some mishandling. I like that the Yankees are trying to develop their own talent ,but when there is a chance to get a top tier talent it is probably worth going for it in the end. If for no reason other than the fact that prospects are such a large gamble, especially pitchers.

  3. dayne huber says:

    Oakland has done a very good job at developing young pitchers and Conors is widely considered one of the best at it, Oaklands rotation this yr is a prime example. I ve being telling anyone who would listen that they needed to get ride of O connor and Contrares for yrs.In the last 10-15 yrs under their control they have really only developed 2 front of the rotation starters in Pettitte and Wang, despite have quite a few very talented pitcher come through their program, mainly Hughes, Joba, IPK and Chris Garcia. I'm extatic that their both gone now and their bringing a top MILB pitching coach.

    Betances is probably a lost cause at this point but Conors is good enough, especially with all of Betances talent and elite stuff, Conors should have a decsent chance of turning him around.I think the most interesting project he has in front of him is seeing what he is able to do with Pineda and Banuelous coming off major injuries. It also makes me extremely hopeful for the future that he can do alot better job teaching guys like Campos, Depaula, Ramiez, Heansley and the other larger group of pitchers we have at AA and lower.

    This is really a great move for the Yanks and a step in the right direction, hopefully his knowledge and pitching philosophies will pay off big for us like they did in Oakland. Now if the Yanks would just go poach some good coaches and scouts from other good prospect organizations we be set

  4. dayne huber says:

    Oakland has done a very good job at developing young pitchers and Patterson is widely considered one of the best at it, Oaklands rotation this yr is a prime example. I ve being telling anyone who would listen that they needed to get ride of O connor and Contrares for yrs.In the last 10-15 yrs under their control they have really only developed 2 front of the rotation starters in Pettitte and Wang, despite having quite a few elite talented pitchers come through their program, mainly Hughes, Joba, IPK and Chris Garcia most recently. I'm extatic that their both gone now and their bringing a top MILB pitching coach.

  5. wally says:

    The danger here is in drawing the wrong conclusions.
    Yes, there are prospect failures. But it is ismpossible to succeed — especially under the new CBA — without incorporating young homegrown talent. The [roper reaction to this run of bad luck is to devote even nore resources to prospect development. Yankee fans with memories that extend beyond 1996 will find the Killer B story familiar. In the early 90s, the Yankees also seemed stacked with young pitching talent. Mark Hutton, Bobby Munoz, Domingo Jean, Sam Militello and yes Brien Taylor. All of them eventually flopped. But almost simultaneously others began to make their way up the ladder. The first were Bob Wickman and Sterling Hitchcock. Both were instrumental in turning arund the early 90s team. But they were just prelude to Pettite and Rivera, both of whom were something of a surprise, Rivera having had surgery and Pettitte a low-round pick who added heft and velocity as he matured. The point is the Yankees in the early 90s had roughly a dozen highly touted pitching propsects. Most of them failed. But out of that 12, four succeeded and two became all-time Yankee greats without whom those five recent WS titles would never have been won.

  6. wally says:

    Correct lesson: keep pouring resurces into development. never be discouraged by temporary stbacks. And beware of prematurely giving up on young pitchers. After all, that what got the Yankees in the deep hole they were after trading the likes of Drabek, Tewksbury and Rijo.

  7. Gonzalo Hiram says:

    As I have said it a lot of times I never liked Brackman, and It just teach me that a prospect needs good numbers too.

    Brackman getting high ranks with ridiculous bad numbers made me laugh, when you see a mix of both things than you could have something good. It's worthless getting excited about a guy with 5.0-6.0 ERA

  8. Greg Corcoran says:

    Thanks for all the great comments guys. In a mini-update, Dellin Betances does appear to be performing well in a relief role in the Arizona Fall League. He's pitched 7.1 innings, and has a 2.45 ERA and 9 strikeouts. He's let up 4 hits and most importantly just 3 walks. Two of those walks came in his first outing of the season. He's only walked one batter in 5.2 innings since then. Small sample size warning applies, but it would be a nice surprise if he turned it around next season, even if just as a relief prospect. We could always use bullpen help, especially with Soriano's likely departure.

    This just emphasizes the point that all is not yet lost with Betances or Banuelos. Banuelos is still very young, and Betances could still work out as a reliever. All of the failure definitely puts things into perspective as far as prospect hugging though.