Manny Banuelos Scouting Report (2009)
Quickly becoming the Yankees best left-handed pitching prospect, Manuel Banuelos was signed out of Mexico and entered 2009 as an 18-year old in full season baseball. With a 2.58 FIP, 8.06 K/9, and 1.83 BB/9, the Charleston RiverDog is one of the youngest and best pitchers in the South Atlantic League and has deservedly turned many heads.
Physique and Athleticism – At 5’11”, Banuelos is not an intimidating presence on the mound. His build is the epitome of average at this point as he’s well-proportioned, but not muscular by any stretch of the imagination. His legs and shoulders look to have room for additional strength, but I’m not sure he will grow much more. He was a better athlete than what I envisioned and did a great job of repeating his delivery considering his age.
Mound Presence – Uncanny for his age, Banuelos showed the maturity and composure of a pitcher in New York, not Charleston pinstripes. Armed with a quiet confidence, he was in control throughout the game and was only in trouble once. With seven hits and a walk in six and two thirds, it was arguably one of his least impressive performances to boot.
Fastball – 87-91 miles per hour, his free and easy arm action leads me to believe his velocity will become more consistent, if not improve a tick or two more on the radar gun. His ball had the classic lefty tail to right-handed hitters, but straightened out when he attempted to throw inside. His slow wind up and quick delivery allowed his fastball to sneak up on hitters. He also moved the pitch in and out at will. However, Gnats hitters took advantage of the pitch early in the count as many of the team’s hits were off the fastball. It’s a borderline plus pitch overall, and an impressive offering from a pitcher his age.
Curveball – At 76-79 MPH, the pitch was more of a big breaker than a pitch with real bite. His location was excellent and he kept the ball consistently low and out to right-handed hitters. While many pitchers in the Sally try to work through the lineup once with a fastball only, Banuelos began working his curve ball in almost immediately and showed supreme confidence with the pitch. With his touch, I can see him developing the pitch to where he throws it at two or three different speeds to keep hitters off balance. To be a true out pitch, however, the pitch will have to become a bit sharper through the strike zone.
Changeup – Banuelos showed excellent arm action with the pitch, but it lacked movement and was a rather rudimentary offering compared to his fastball/curve ball combination. At 75 MPH, his change could also stand to gain a couple of ticks on the radar gun since 8-10 MPH is the ideal difference between a fastball and change up.
I’ve had the opportunity to see a number of former first round picks and top international free agent pitchers and Banuelos ranks right up there with them. After Casey Kelly, Banuelos can make an argument for the second best pitching prospect I’ve seen this season. At 18, he has a remarkable combination of feel and poise, but it raises the question of how much better he can become.
He lacks the size and build of a front line starter and his fastball may not improve. Major improvement could come from his change up with improved location and movement. His curve ball has the potential to become a true out pitch, but it’s not quite there yet. For now, he’s an exciting new name in a rather drab system and definitely worth the price of admission if you can make it to Charleston.
18 Jan 2014 / Mike Newman /
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