LHP, Manny Banuelos: Quickly proving to be the cream of last year's International free agent crop for the Yankees, the 17-year old is a bit of a rarity. His poise, command, mechanics, and pitch-ability are so polished for a young player that he safely projects as a big league pitcher someday.
However, already armed with three plus pitches, including a power fastball [90-92 MPH] that has the chance to get even quicker with his broad shoulders, he has some significant upside as a potential Scott Kazmir type down the road. Now Kazmir was hitting 97 MPH as an 18-year old and it remains to been seen if Banuelos can match that velocity before his 19th birthday, but the Mexican lefty has better secondary pitches than Kazmir did at similar stages in their careers.
RHP, Dellin Betances: Few pitchers made bigger strides in 2008 than Betances. He always had the amazing stuff, but there was a lot of work to be done mechanically. He successfully smoothed out his mechanics and made them more repeatable, he improved his quick-step to home to help limit opposing runners getting big jumps, he became much better at fielding his position, and his changeup became a more reliable pitch by season's end.
All of those improvements helped bring his plus stuff together in the second-half last year and he went on to cut his walk ratio in half the rest of the way. He has three plus pitches, including a fastball that can hit 98 MPH, and now he has vastly improved command of all of them. He went from purely projectable to more of a proven prospect in just one short season, and the scary part is there's still a lot of room for improvement.
RHP, Andrew Brackman: The 2007 first round pick is very similar to Betances. He's extremely tall [6-foot-11], throws ultra-hard [100 MPH at times], owns a knockout knuckle-curve as his best secondary pitch, and has similar mechanical flaws and subsequent command issues at similar stages in their careers.
And like Betances, Brackman is going to spending the majority of his immediate development time working on his quick-step to home and honing his repeatable mechanics. Where Brackman has an edge over Betances is in his natural athletic abilities [Brackman played power forward in collegiate basketball], so he is already more advanced fielding his position, and Brackman is starting his career a bit more filled out and that should help him stabilize his balance a bit better right out of the gate.
|MORE POWER COMING?: If Heredia can increase his velocity a few ticks, his ceiling could be unreal. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
He too offers the organization a safe projection as a big league pitcher cut in the mold as an Ian Kennedy type, but he has the complete package and the potential to throw harder to possibly become a frontline pitcher in due time. All he lacks is the plus velocity right now, but that could quickly change.
RHP, Brett Marshall: Last year's sixth-round pick, who reportedly was a first round consideration, certainly has a big league arm already at the tender age of 18. Able to sit 92-95 MPH with his fastball and already owning a great slider, the comparisons to Joba Chamberlain have already begun.
Short-term, however, he'll be putting the slider in his back-pocket in favor of developing his curveball further and his changeup, while good, still has a ways to go. He's a bit raw, but he is extremely athletic and a bit of a workout junkie. The natural talent and work ethic are there, as well as the arm, to have one of the higher ceilings in the organization.
RHP, Zach McAllister: Arguably the Yankees best minor league pitcher last season, McAllister is a bit different than most high-ceiling hurlers. He doesn't throw in the upper-90's with his fastball and while his secondary pitches are good, neither are plus big league weapons at this point.
But what he lacks in overall power and dazzling secondary pitches he more than makes up with impeccable command [he walked just 25 batters in 150 innings] and one of the best sinking two-seamers around. He often gets compared to Chien-Ming Wang as a result, and like Wang his impact on a staff could be better than his repertoire might divulge. He does have better secondary pitches at similar stages in their careers, however.
RHP, D.J. Mitchell: Mitchell has yet to make his professional debut and despite being drafted in the tenth round out of Clemson University, he still has one of the higher ceilings. His sinking two-seamer is as special as McAllister's and he enters the organization with the makings of two plus secondary pitches.
Throw in his superb athleticism, work ethic, and command, Mitchell has the complete package. He is also a thinner pitcher right now, one who could put on useful muscle mass in the coming years and that could take his current 91-94 MPH fastball to a whole different level.
RHP, Arodys Vizcaino: Arguably no pitcher made bigger strides from the start of last season to the finish. The then 17-year old began the year armed with an average big league fastball that sat mostly in the 88-92 MPH range and quickly bumped his average up the 91-94 MPH plateau. He also developed an inconsistent slurvy breaking ball into a legitimate plus big league curveball.
The changeup has come a long way, but it still has a ways to go. Considering how far his other two pitches have come in such a short period of time, there's no reason to doubt it will make similar strides in time. Throw in the fact his live arm generates a lot of movement with his pitches and the fact he has the type of body that should get stronger, his pitches appear to be on an upward track. His ceiling is among the best in the organization.
Closest to the Majors
RHP, Christian Garcia: Armed with arguably the best curveball-changeup combination in the organization, a power fastball that has hit 97 MPH in the past [although he was more in the 90-93 MPH range last season in his first year back after Tommy John and knee surgeries], the smoothest mechanics around, and being one of the best fielding pitchers to boot, Garcia also has one of the higher ceilings. Now a member of the 40-man roster, however, he is also one of the closest to the big leagues.
|A RELIEF OPTION TOO: Hacker has some short-term value as a reliever. (Photo: Kenny Barto/PinstripesPlus.com)|
RHP, Alan Horne: Oh how quickly things can change. The 2007 Eastern League Pitcher of the Year had a disastrous 2008 campaign that saw him struggle with command [27 walks in 39 innings] and velocity [it went from 92-94 down to 88-92] before it was discovered he needed shoulder surgery by season's end. He'll need to prove his stuff is back to his old form upon his return, but he's still not all that far off from helping out at the big league level once he does that.
RHP, George Kontos: It was quite a ride for the Northwestern product last season. Entering the year having his pitch-ability questioned by some and projecting best as a reliever then, he was nearly traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Nady-Marte deal before finishing the year by becoming a legitimate four-pitch hurler with unquestionable pitch-ability after striking out over 150 batters. His vastly improved curveball and changeup now give the Yankees another starting option, and he isn't far from the big leagues after spending all of last year in Double-A.