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.