ESPN NY is in the middle of rolling out a big 3-part look at the Yankee farm system and its recent struggles, and while I think Wally was a little heavy-handed with his "doom and gloom" overview in Part I, there was an eye-catching bit about Manny Banuelos that I think warrants further discussion:
"Banuelos has got that big arm," a front office source said. "If it's still there and the lightning still strikes then you're going see people say, 'Fuck it, bring him with us [on Opening Day].'"
I've been a big advocate of giving ManBan a real chance at a rotation spot in camp this year. There's nothing to lose really. If he doesn't pitch well enough to earn it, send him to Triple-A. But I could totally get on board with bringing him along on the Opening Day roster in the bullpen if he pitches well enough for one of those open spots.
Working top starting pitching prospects into the Majors through the 'pen is something that teams like the Rays and Cardinals have done frequently over the last 5+ years, and while the Yankees haven't had nearly the success in following that script, that doesn't mean they shouldn't try it. What's the worst that could happen? He doesn't pitch well and they send him back to Triple-A just like they would if he was competing for a spot in the rotation.
Yes, ManBan is 2 years behind schedule in his development and there were plenty of rough edges to his game that needed to be smoothed out before his elbow problems set in. He's also the Yankees' only high-ceiling pitching prospect above A-ball, at least that still projects as a starter down the road. I don't think Jose Ramirez is going to hold up physically to a starter's workload, and ManBan can learn just as much about preparation, refining his delivery, and improving his command working with the Major League coaching staff and players as he could pitching in Triple-A.
The competition for the back end of the bullpen is as wide open as any in ST and Banuelos' natural stuff is just as good if not better than all the other guys competing. I imagine the Yankees want to monitor his workload this year in his first year back from TJS. Using him out of the Major League bullpen would allow them to do that while also giving them full hands-on control over the restarting of his development. Letting him pitch David Phelps-type innings for a year while working with him on the finer points of pitching could be the best way to prepare him for a step up into the starting rotation in 2015. Just an idea...