Talented lefty Banuelos hoping to see first big-league action in 2014Hard-throwing but oft-injured youngster expected to start the year in the minors
Background: Manny Banuelos is a 22-year-old lefty pitcher in the Yankees organization. He's been in the minors for five seasons, posting a 19-19 record with a 3.12 ERA. Banuelos underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012 to repair an elbow injury but is back on the mound this spring for the Yanks.
2011 Season (missed most of 2012+2013 with injury): Banuelos had his biggest season in terms of workload in 2011 and was effective. He threw 129.2 innings, posting a 3.75 ERA and 125 K's between both Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Greatest Strength: Although Banuelos is just beginning to get back to live action on the mound, his greatest strength has always been his fastball. Before his surgery, he was able to touch the mid to upper 90's on his fastball. We're not exactly sure whether that velocity will return or not, but early reports out of spring training have been that the ball still jumps out of his hand.
Greatest Weakness: In 2011, Banuelos had just under five walks per nine innings. That's less than stellar, and might mean that as the hitters he is facing get better and better, he is trying to be too careful. Banuelos has the stuff to succeed, and he should work on his control in the spring as he tries to make the 2014 Yankees roster.
Prediction: Banuelos will most likely start the season in the minor leagues, only because he is recovering from an injury and is still so young. However, if the Yankees bullpen begins to falter, it's easy to imagine a circumstance where Banuelos is called up either to start -- and move a former starter to the bullpen like, say, David Phelps -- or get lefties out in relief. Either way, Banuelos will most likely make his Major League debut at some point in 2014.