What ever happened to the Killer B's? Just two years ago, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Brackman were three of the top 5 or 6 prospects in the Yankee system. Obviously Brackman was cut loose because of control issues, and Banuelos is now in the process of recovering from Tommy John surgery. (Though he's already in Tampa for some reason) Betances has faced his own set of issues. His fastball and breaking pitches are as strong as ever, but control has eluded the 24 year old. I've seen a few top Yankee prospect rankings that still kept Banuelos in the top 10, but good luck finding Betances on any of them. The tall right-handed pitcher was awful last year, pitching to a 6.44 ERA between Scranton and Trenton. He maintained a decent 19.6 K% through that time, but his walk rates skyrocketed. In Scranton, Betances was nearly striking out as many hitters as he was walking (19.0%), but did fair better in the demotion to Trenton. There he maintained a 19.7 K% and an 11.2 BB%. In comparison to Brett Marshall, a top 10 prospect for many, Betances' strikeout and walk rates were a bit higher than Marshall's 18.1 K% and 8.0 BB%. Though the numbers are a lot closer than perceived, Betances put up a 6.51 ERA where Marshall put up a 3.52 ERA. Obviously there's a stark difference in results, and this is largely due to Betances' incredibly low 58.0 LOB%. This is one of the failures of ERA, and FIP offers us a much more realistic look at both pitcher's performance, with Marshall sporting a 4.09 FIP, and Betances at 4.15.
The former top prospect regained something while returning to Double-A, something that's largely overlooked because of the high ERA, but he still didn't return to his dominant form. In Spring Training this year, Betances threw 1.0 inning against the Astros at the end of February, and in the process walked 2 and hit 1 batter. He wouldn't make another appearance for nearly two weeks, and during that time he worked on simplifying his mechanics, both in his stride and arm movement. I tackled this last week with a few comparative GIF's.
On March 11th, Betances pitched 2.0 innings against the Cardinals, where he gave up just 1 hit and 1 hit by pitch. Today, in Tampa, he went 4.0 innings, gave up just 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 hit by pitch, and 4 strikeouts. Some reports said that he was struggling to repeat his new delivery at times, but the overall consensus was optimistic. In the end, Betances threw a ton of strikes, and only one batter could hit him.
We're only dealing with a sample size of 6.0 innings, and those innings are all coming against inferior competition in Spring Training, but there's something to like about Betances this year. It's a make or break year for the soon-to-be 25 year old, and it would nice to have a comeback story from a local kid. What would be an even bigger story would be the effects of the new minor league pitching coordinator, Gil Patterson. Patterson did a fantastic job with the Athletics in developing a number of young pitchers, and his contributions to the Yankees could start right here. Between the development of Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Betances, Banuelos, and Brackman, bringing in a new pitching coordinator like Patterson could prove to be one of the most important moves this offseason.