Ken Rosenthal passes along an interesting lil’ tidbit from former Padres and current Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers. If this was a quote from an anonymous scout I would just call it one man’s opinion and not give it a second look, but Towers is well known in baseball circles for his expertise on pitching. Doesn’t mean he’s always right, just that his opinion is a bit more noteworthy than most. He also spent last year working with the Yanks as a special consultant scouting the Yankee farm system, so he’s seen plenty of the Yankee farmhands. Here’s what he said:
• Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers, who spent last season scouting with the Yankees, offers yet another ringing endorsement for the Yanks’ top pitching prospects — and actually likes right-hander Dellin Betances even better than lefty Manny Banuelos.
Betances, 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds, “might be King Felix,” Towers says.
“Teddy Higuera in his prime,” Towers says, “but with a better arm.”
High praise in both cases. King Felix needs no introduction, but for those of you who don’t recall Teddy Higuera, he was akin to Banuelos in that he was a lefty from Mexico with a similar build (5′ 10″ 178 lb) and repertoire (fastball/change) who pitched for the American League version of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1980s. In his prime, he was an outstanding pitcher. He was 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting in 1985, 2nd in Cy Young voting and an All-Star in 1986, posting an ERA+ of 156 that season. He averaged 7.2 WAR over a 3 year span from 1986-88. His best season was arguably 1988, where he went 16-9 with an ERA+ of 162 and posted a WHIP of 0.999, though for some reason he didn’t garner any CY Young consideration that year. It’s also worth noting that Higuera started breaking down in his late 20′s. He had back surgery at age 29 after his fine 1988 season, pitched well for a few years thereafter and then blew out his rotator cuff in 1991. That pretty much ended his career as an effective pitcher at age 32. When you hear people reference concerns about Baneulos’ size, its because baseball is littered with stories like this of smallish starters breaking down around that age. But as Yankee fans, we can only hope that Banuelos has a career similar to that of Teodoro Valenzuela Higuera.
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