From Joel Sherman:
So who knows what happens when their two best pitching prospects, Manuel Banuelos and Dellin Betances, begin throwing in spring, particularly in light of the Yanks’ hunger for quality starting pitching.
However, for now, GM Brian Cashman is firm that Banuelos and Betances are not part of major league plans for 2011 either out of spring training or during the season.
“They shouldn’t be caught up in our major league problems,” Cashman told me. Translation: No matter how short the rotation might be, it is not up to two inexperienced pitchers to solve the mess caused by Cliff Lee’s rejection and Andy Pettitte continued defection. Banuelos and Betances have each made three career starts at Double-A, which is the highest level they have attained. Both had injuries last year that severely restricted their workload. So you can expect that the Yanks will institute an innings cap not much above 130 – if that high. With that the case, it would be hard to begin or end the year with either Banuelos or Betances in the rotation. In addition, Cashman stressed that Banuelos is just 19 (he turns 20 next month).
Neither pitcher is entirely ready for the majors, although Keith Law believes that Banuelos is very close. That said, I can already see how spring training will play out if either guy performs well. People will see the hotshot prospect throwing heaters next to Freddy Garcia’s soft-tossing and Bartolo Colon’s waistline and will suggest that the Yankees go with the young arm in the rotation. While that would be the more exciting and interesting decision, Cashman is right to be opposed to any such move.
Handing a major league job to a pitcher who has yet to see significant time in AA is a recipe for disaster. The Yankees would likely see marginal gain at best from starting the prospect over the veteran, and there is a distinct possibility that the prospect would be awful and actually cost the team more than Freddy Garcia might. Additionally, there is a nonzero chance that rushing the prospect into the rotation would stunt his development and cost the Yankees a valuable asset.
Showing patience with prospects is incredibly difficult, particularly when the alternatives are guys who were last effective 3 or 4 seasons ago. But building a farm system requires a deft hand, as pushing players too quickly or moving them along too slowly could upset the delicate balance of talent and health that goes into building a professional baseball player. When it comes to Banuelos and Betances, having them start the season in the majors would be a poor decision built upon desperation, and could very well hurt the franchise in the long run. Hopefully Brian Cashman remains steadfast in his opposition to rushing these pitchers, and they develop into excellent pitchers at their own pace.
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