Is 2013 a make or break year for Betances?

02/25/2013 12:16 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Dellin Betances will open the season as part of Triple-A Scranton's rotation.(AP)
Last season was a rough one for the Yankees’ vaunted “Killer B’s,” as lefty Manny Banuelos made just six starts at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before being shut down with arm issues and righty Dellin Betances struggled so much with his control that he was reassigned from Scranton to Double-A Trenton mid-season.

Banuelos will miss all of 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery last fall, but the Yankees hope a bounce-back season is in the works for Betances this year – and in speaking to the media on Sunday, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that Betances has looked strong over the first two weeks of spring, but where the 6-foot-8 righty goes depends on whether he can continue that progress on the field.

“Physical tools are overwhelming. He’s had a good spring; his bullpens are fantastic. If you’re sitting there scouting him, you’re going to be blown away, but when you’re at the level that you are now in pro ball, you start to performance scout,” Cashman said. “It matters what he does between the lines, not just in Major League Spring Training, but in season.”

Cashman said that Betances will open the season in Scranton’s rotation, likely joining holdover Adam Warren and the Brett Marshall-Shaeffer Hall-Vidal Nuno triad that helped lead Double-A Trenton to the Eastern League Championship Series in 2012, and will have the chance to prove that 2012, and not his strong 2011, was the exception and not the rule.

“Two years ago he was one of the premier young starters in the game and last year, he took a radical step back because of fastball command. His year last year, was it one of complete failure, or was it just a step back?” Cashman asked. “He’s going to have to prove that way one way or the other.”

The team has been high on Betances since he was drafted in 2006, and he was ranked on Baseball America’s list of the Top 100 prospects in baseball prior to the 2007, 2011, and 2012 seasons, the latter honor coming just weeks after he made his Major League debut for the Yankees.

But Betances struggled with his control in that September 2011 call-up, walking six in 2.2 innings, and had pitched to a 6.39 ERA with 69 walks in 73.1 innings at Scranton last season when he was re-assigned back to Trenton in late-June.

Betances’ fortunes improved somewhat with the Thunder, and after being shut down toward the end of the season with arm inflammation, he made some mechanical changes and spent some time as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League, pitching to a 5.25 ERA with 15 strikeouts and just four walks in 12 innings.

Cashman praised that progress, and said that while Betances is still somewhat of a wild card, it’s what he does with those mechanics that will determine his future.

“I can’t promise anything other than that you’re running out a beast that can really excite you any day that you see him if it’s all clicking together,” Cashman said. “You can have three innings of wow, and one inning of whoa, the delivery got away from him a little bit. It’s all about body control and repeating his delivery.”

And, as Cashman said, come April, Betances will have the chance to continue his progression as a starter on Dave Miley’s RailRiders squad, but it’s up to the righty to determine whether his career follows more closely to the path of Randy Johnson or Daniel Cabrera.

“The physical tools? Overwhelming, stuff to get excited about,” Cashman said. “If it clicks in, it will come fast and it will be stuff to be excited about. If not, it’s going to be another one of those guys that the game’s littered with, which is, amazing talent but couldn’t find a way to piece it together.”

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