The Yankees recently received news that prospect Manny Banuelos will be shut down for the remainder of the season due to a bone bruise in his left elbow. The injury has side-lined him since May and hasn’t healed as quickly as the Yankees had hoped. 2012 has been a lost season for the prized prospect as he only made 6 starts due to his elbow injury as well as a minor back issue. According to this article by ESPN’s Stephania Bell, a bone bruise is a small amount of damage to the bone just beneath the cartilage in the joint. If not allowed to heal properly, it could eventually lead to a fracture. This is obviously good reason to let Banuelos sit on the shelf for a while. The good news is it most likely won’t be a recurring issue once it’s completely healed.
While it’s good news that ManBan’s injury doesn’t greatly threaten his future, he did lose some crucial development time in 2012 having only made 6 starts in AAA. The 21-year-old was a highly ranked prospect in the preseason: Baseball America (29th), Baseball Prospectus (29th), Keith Law (23rd), and Fangraphs (38th). He was also the consensus #1 prospect in the Yankees’ system after the Jesus Montero trade. After pitching well in AA (4.01 FIP) and AAA(3.90 FIP) in 2011, it looked like Banuelos might be a midseason rotation option this year. While he’s still in position for a possible callup next year, it’s hard not to think of what could have been had he stayed healthy. In fact, there’s a good chance he would be in the rotation right now. As good as Freddy Garcia’s been, it would have been much more exciting to watch ManBan and it would be nice to be able to pencil him into the 2013 rotation.
Despite his setback, it’s important to remember that ManBan will still be only 22 next year. He is also still very capable of becoming a top of the rotation starter if he can improve on his control. Hopefully, his elbow heals in time for him to pitch in winter ball where he can replace some of his lost development. This would also be an opportunity for him to shake the rust off and be ready to pick up where he left off in spring training.
The loss of development certainly tarnishes his status as a top prospect. He also might be a bit of an injury risk going forward. While his elbow shouldn’t be a recurring issue, the fact that he missed time with two separate injuries in 2012 raises some concerns about his durability in general. However, he’s still on the brink of breaking into the big leagues and still possesses three potentially above-average pitches. Banuelos will certainly drop a bit on the prospect rankings next spring. However, the upside is still there and we could just push our 2012 expectations back a year to 2013.