Manuel Banuelos’ season is over. He will be shut down, with hopes of pitching a few innings in winter ball. Banuelos had been rehabbing a series of problems in his left elbow since May. He pitched just 20 innings in 2012.
Banuelos was still one of the youngest players at Triple-A, and showing promising stuff before hitting the disabled list. He isn’t expected to require elbow surgery, and likely is being shut down as a precaution more than anything. There’s no reason to rush him back from injury. Still, he has lost considerable development time, and will have to have his innings count treated with kid gloves for at least one more season.
The Yankee farm system has been devastated by injuries this season. Jose Campos barely pitched a game due to a bum elbow. Austin Romine is just now finishing his rehab. Mason Williams is down with a torn labrum, although he should recover fine. Ravel Santana has had trouble recovering from his devastating ankle injury. The list goes on.
Injuries will always be a problem with prospects. We should always keep this in mind when evaluating them. Initial reports found that David Adams’ 2010 ankle injury would have no lasting baseball effect, but it took him nearly two years to return to his previous level of competitiveness. We should treat Manuel Banuelos with extra skepticism, even if the Yankees legitimately believe that he will make a full recovery. As a small pitcher, Banuelos is vulnerable to taxing loads on his body. The possibility of elbow surgery down the line is significantly more likely at this point, even if he starts pitching again in the winter.
Tyler Austin, Gary Sanchez, and Mason Williams are now clear standouts as the top-3 Yankee prospects. Banuelos has the stuff to hang with them, but injury risk pushing him pretty far down. How far down? I don’t know. But for a guy who was a clear #1 prospect just a year ago, Banuelos sure has fallen quickly. More bad news for the Yankee system.
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