Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The upper level starting pitching depth is shallow compared to their relief depth, but there are still a few players that are worth following. Especially when you consider the fact that the team is finally getting a former top 50 prospect back onto the field.

Major League Ready RHP:

With the departure of Brett Marshall, Jose Ramirez has become the Yankees most MLB ready RHP prospect. However, there are still questions about Ramirez's durability. These questions made me consider putting him in the reliever part of this series.

As a reliever Ramirez would be a top 100 prospect according to Kiley McDaniel at This shows just how special he would be in that role. But at moment the Yankees seem to still think of him as a starting pitcher.

Stuff wise he should be able to become a very good starter. Ramirez fastball sits around 97 MPH and he also throws a good changeup and an improving slider. At separate points in his career his changeup and fastball have been ranked as the best pitch in the Yankees system by Baseball America.

 In addition to durability concerns, some worry about his overall consistency. Someone with the type of stuff Ramirez has should have a much more impressive stat sheet. If Ramirez doesn't start the year off well, he may end up in the pen. In this sense Ramirez could be this year's Dellin Betances. With that said there is still a lot of hope that Ramirez can still start.

After Ramirez there is a big drop off in this category. The next best Yankee RHP prospect is Shane Greene. Greene had a solid year in A+ and AA and earned himself a spot of the 40 man roster. Considering the team refused to protect other high end relief prospects, they must feel that Greene can stay in the rotation.

Greene's breakthrough season may have surprised many, but he truly always had the stuff to be a successful starter. Greene is armed with a good fastball slider combination, that gives him a nice floor as a reliever. But he also throws a change-up and a sinker.

Before 2013 Greene was thought to be afraid of attacking the zone but something changed last season and he only walked 1.7 batters per 9. This is a big improvement, as in 2012 he had a BB/9 of over 5.Greene is a good reason why fans shouldn't give up so quickly on players with plus tools or pitches.

This isn't to say Greene is a sure thing, as he still had a high WHIP in AA, and may begin 2014 at that level. This late bloomer truly has the talent to be a major league starter and no one in the system is really forcing him to move to the pen. If he continues to be aggressive and throw strikes he might have a chance to become a part of the Yankees future.

Major League Ready LHP:

While Greene and Ramirez both have talent, Manny Banuelos is easily the best pitcher in this category and probably in the entire system. Manny Banuelos, is a former top 50 prospect who flew through the Yankee farm system. By the time he was 20 he was already in AAA, and looked to be ready for the big leagues in 2012.

Unfortunately for the Yankees Banuelos began feeling elbow discomfort two seasons ago. The Yankees attempted to avoid sending the young lefty under the knife, but after a while it became inevitable. Because the Yankees waited so long to give him surgery, he essentially ended up missing two seasons instead of one. 

Because he has missed so much time, his stock has plummeted. However he still very young and was once thought to be among the best prospects in baseball. TJ surgery is a relatively safe procedure, so it's not like we should doubt his ability. For that reason we can assume his stuff is basically the same as when we last saw him.

Manny throws a 91-94 mph fastball that occasionally reaches 96 MPH. His fastball has good life and may be a bit faster coming off surgery. In addition to a good fastball, Manny also throws a solid curveball and changeup. All three pitches are above average to plus big league offerings. He has also shown good command and control in the past, though he was a bit wild in his last full season.

Manny is already on the 40 man roster so there's a good chance we will see Banuelos in the majors at some point. Banuelos is the type of prospect than can completely change how analysts look at the Yankee system. Manny had a front-line stuff two seasons ago and if we assume that he is still the same player than the Yankees may have already have their replacement for Hiroki Kuroda.

While the next lefty, Vidal Nuno, doesn't have Banuelos's upside, he does seem like a possible future back-end starter. Vidal Nuno is a later bloomer who appears to be ready to contribute to the 2014 Yankees. Nuno is a former Clevland Indians prospect that was given up on a few years ago. However a slight bump in velocity has made him an interesting Yankee prospect.

Nuno still doesn't throw very hard, but he does have five average pitches-- two types of fastballs (two and four-seamer), a curveball, a slider, a changeup and a cutter.  Despite his large arsenal most scouts question his ability to go through a major league lineup twice. Because of this he might be best suited in the bullpen.

There is a chance that he passes his ceiling, as he is very similar to ex-Yankee prospect Jose Quintana. Quintanna was also expected to fail as a starter but so far has exceeded expectations. Nuno might have the same future, and has already played decently enough in his short stint in the big leagues.

While most believe his success as a starter is based off of smoke and mirrors, something has to be said for being consistent. If the next Yankee prospect in this category was that consistent he would be considered a mid-rotation starter. However Matt Tracy had a dreadful 2013 season where he was seemingly two different pitchers.

Tracy has good command of a low 90s fastball, and is able to use it effectively vs right handed batters. In addition to his fastball he has a curveball and changeup. While he hasn't fully perfected either pitch yet, most agree that they have potential. The inconsistency of his secondary pitches might explain his overall performance in 2013. But it's important to remember that despite his age he is still an inexperienced pitcher.

It's also worth noting that Tracy missed a good chunk of the 2013 season due to a hip injury. Because of this his sample size is rather small. To put his sample size into context, essentially one fourth of his earned runs came in one start.

Despite his struggles he had a few good starts which showed us that he still had the ability to do well. He gave up two runs or less in half of his starts.

(To fully appreciate just how on and off of a year he had, his game logs can be seen HERE.)

Unlike Tracy and a lot of other Yankee players Nik Turley finished the entire 2013 season without a major injury. The former 50th round pick pitched in 145 innings last year, and showed that he has the talent to succeed as a starter.

Turley's stats suggest he could be a durable, inning eater type pitcher in the majors one day. But his lack of plus stuff will limit him to a back-end or mid-rotation starter. Currently Turley throws a fastball, a curveball, and a changeup. His fastball ranges from 88-92 MPH, and has some sinking and cutting action. Turley's curveball is his second best pitch and the pitch has plus potential.

Turley is on the 40 man roster and should make his major league debut during 2014. While some will immediately think of Andy Pettitte when he pitches, he really doesn't have that kind of upside. Turley will someday be a useful starting option rather soon, but he will not be the type of guy that anchors a rotation. Instead he will be consistent and stable force in the back end of a rotation.


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