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Run by The Trentonian's Nick Peruffo, this blog will provide daily multimedia coverage of the Trenton Thunder.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Projecting the Rotation

1. Dellin Betances

Added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, Betances is a coin-flip to start Opening Day in New Hampshire. After injuries nearly but the brakes on his career, the $1 million eighth-rounder put it all together in 2010.

Between Tampa and Trenton, Betances finished with a dazzling 8-1 record, a 2.11 ERA, and 53 hits and 108 strikeouts in 85 1/3 innings. To put it another way, in 12 of his 14 starts with the T-Yanks, Betances had more strikeouts than hits allowed.

The Yankees have already gone on record as saying that Betances will begin 2010 with Trenton, so this one's a lock.

2. Manny Banuelos

Banuelos came to Trenton with -- and delivered on -- an equally lofty pedigree. The diminutive left-hander's velocity had been building all year, and peaked at 97 miles per hour in his playoff start against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

To go with the heater, Banuelos also showcased an impressive change-up and an (at times) excellent curveball.

The problem with last year, however, was the emergency appendectomy he had right before the season began. He missed most of the first half recovering, and -- counting his work in the Arizona Fall League -- pitched just 89 2/3 innings as a result.

The Yankees have also made it clear that Banuelos will start 2011 back in Double-A, where will get a chance to prove himself over the course of a full-season workload.

3. Graham Stoneburner

A strong-armed power right-hander out of Clemson, Stoneburner exceeded all expectations in his first professional season, which was split between Charleston and Tampa. He finished with a 2.41 ERA, second in the organization among qualifiers. (Mikey O'Brien, who should be with Charleston this year, finished first).

Because of its sink, Yankees farm boss Mark Newman likened Stoneburner's fastball to MLB-vet Jake Westbrook. He couples the fastball with a slider that flashes above average at times. That combo could lead him to the bullpen down the line, but he's a starter for now.

He threw 103 stellar innings in Tampa in 2010, which leads me to believe he's all but a lock for the Trenton rotation come April.

4. Shaeffer Hall

Like Stoneburner, Hall counted last year as his first full professional season. Also like Stoneburner, Hall - a finesse lefty from the University of Kansas --flew through the South Atlantic League with the Charleston RiverDogs.

Things started out swimmingly after Hall made the jump to High-A Tampa. Over his first 10 outings (including one relief appearance), he was 9-1 and allowed 13 earned runs over 48 1/3 innings. Six of those earned runs came in one horror show of an outing, on July 8 against Daytona.

After that, things plummeted. He finished with losses in four of his final five starts, and gave up 17 earned runs, including five of the seven longballs he allowed in his time with Tampa.

Despite that bad patch, I think Hall is an excellent contender -- but not a lock -- to begin 2011 at Waterfront Park.

5. Cory Arbiso

Although he started the season on the disabled list, Arbiso made his mark on the 2010 Thunder by being available whenever and for whatever role manager Tony Franklin needed. In fact, before a rainout pushed the proceedings back a day, Arbiso was on track to pitch in a possible Game 5 of the Eastern League Championship Series.

In all, out of his 32 appearances, Arbiso made 11 starts for the Thunder. With 77 hits over 49 1/3 innings, the role didn't seem to suit him. That said, however, he may have to split the fifth starter's role with Craig Heyer until Brett Marshall is ready to make his way up from Tampa.

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