Manny Banuelos took a big step yesterday, as he made his first start in AA. This is his second stop on his rehab tour, and besides for one start he has done nothing but impress. So far he has only walked two batters this season while striking out 18. Considering that his control was considered his biggest question-mark this is very encouraging.
While he is a bit advanced for each level, he was younger than the average player in both leagues. It’s truly remarkable how fast he was going through the system before he got hurt.
Now that he is doing well, and progressing nicely, many fans might wonder when he will be ready to play in the majors. This question probably has come up quite a bit with the recent injuries to Michael Pineda, and Ivan Nova.
However, I highly doubt he can make it to the majors before Pineda gets healthy. I feel that the Yankees are going to take it slow with and advanced him conservative. I feel that he will spend a decent amount of time in AA. Because he hasn’t really began to pitch deep into games yet. I think the team will want to extend him at a lower level before advancing him.
He will probably spend a good chunk of May in AA, and then advance to AAA, when he gets stronger. Once he is AAA, I feel that the team will be more likely to start thinking about his role on the big league club.
As of now it’s a little unclear how he could best help the Yankees. The team could have a clear need in the rotation if Vidal Nuno can’t be an adequate number 5 starter. If Nuno sticks in the rotation than the team may have a need for a second lefty out of the pen. That might make sense for the Yankees, as Banuelos probably has a pitch count.
I think the most realistic scenario is that he starts in the pen, and the team slowly builds up his innings limit at the end of the year. That way he can have a Matt Moore like impact come playoff time—assuming he and the Yankees are doing well—Banuelos was a top prospect so it’s not like he doesn’t have the stuff to make a big splash in the rotation.
Banuelos helping this team in the playoffs should be the Yankees ultimate goal. As of now the only sure thing the Yankees have in the rotation is Masahiro Tanaka. Banuelos could be the team’s fourth best starter at the end of this season, if scouts were right about his potential. That would the Yankees a great insurance policy in case one of their guys doesn’t rebound.