April 8, 2011

5 Yankees minor leaguers to watch in 2011

I hereby declare 2011 the year of the three B’s and two C’s. That motto refers to the Yankees’ top five prospects: three pitching prospects with last names beginning with ‘B’ and two catchers.

Three B’s Throws Birthday Two C’s Bats Birthday
Manny Banuelos L 3/13/91 Jesus Montero R 11/29/89
Dellin Betances R 3/23/88 Gary Sanchez R 12/2/92
Andrew Brackman R 12/4/85      
It was Opening Day yesterday for Minor League Baseball, and like always River Ave. Blues has the scoop on DotF.

On lenNY’s Yankees, I like to check in on prospects from time to time. This season, I expect you’ll be hearing a lot about the three B’s and two C’s. Here’s a start.

1. Jesus Montero:
For most of spring training it seemed as if Montero had won the backup catching duties after Francisco Cervelli dropped out of the race with a fractured left foot. Maybe it was Montero’s poor hitting performance, or maybe his moves behind the plate weren’t good enough. Or maybe the Yankees higher-ups wanted him to get full-time experience in Triple-A. Either way, the Yankees picked a no-name, Gustavo Molina, to be the backup.

Montero hit just .250/.286/.300 in 40 spring training at-bats, but he also is ranked third as the third best prospect in baseball. If he catches fire early this season, it’s very likely we’ll see this 21-year-old stud before June. Be excited, people.

2. Manny Banuelos:
Of the three B’s, one shined a lot brighter than the rest in spring training. That B was for Banuelos, who impressed all eyes with his mid-90 mph fastball, his consistent changeup, and his great confidence for a little lefty. Some fans would have chosen him to be the fifth starter after his dazzling spring, but people forget he only has three appearances above High-A ball.

Still, scouts said he has the stuff to become a frontline starter and the way he mowed down hitters in spring training indicates we could see him pitch his way to the majors sooner rather than later.

3. Gary Sanchez:
He doesn’t get a lot of attention because the Yankees organization is so deep at catcher — thank Brian Cashman for that — but Sanchez might just be the best prospect of them all. He’s only 18 years old, but he showed he could hit for power, hit for average and play behind the plate in his first season in Class-A. He started the season off with a bang last night, too.

4. Dellin Betances:
The book on this tall, 22-year-old righty is he’s got the stuff but can’t stay healthy. When healthy, he can make hitters look bad. Last season in High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, he struck out 108 batters in 85-1/3 innings with a 2.11 ERA and 0.879 WHIP. Since he tops out in the high 90s, there’s a chance the Yankees call him up to the bullpen by August or September.

5. Andrew Brackman:
Brackman showed potential last season with his major step forward in control. He rose his K/BB ratio to 3.23 from 1.36 in 2009, and that greatly improved his success. With a steady fastball, a nasty curve and the most experience of all these prospects, Brackman could earn a spot start or bullpen job this season.

Note: Brackman and Betances may be known as the Two Towers if they ever are in the same rotation, as Brackman touches 6-foot-11 and Betances stands at 6-foot-8.

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