Earlier this month, I spoke with John Manuel of Baseball America. Manuel's the man behind ranking the Yankees' top 10 prospects, which were released (in e-magazine form) late last month. During an hourlong interview, I asked him about a number of different topics relating to this year's rankings. Because the chat was so lengthy, I'm going to make a post out of each question. It's more easily digestible that way.
Question: Last season, Baseball America ranked Dellin Betances ahead of Manny Banuelos on its Top 10 list. What changed this year that caused the flip-flop?
John Manuel: Last year, that was really, strongly, the opinion of the organization, inside the organization, was that they liked Betances more than Banuelos. That was very strongly put across to me last year.
A big part of it is that every year we start with an eastern division, one year it's the AL East, the next year it's the NL East. Last year, we started with the American League East, so the Yankees were one of the first teams we did. I did that ranking in October. ... When I was at the Winter Meetings (after the Prospect Handbook was finalized), I think the industry consensus would have been that Banuelos was ahead of Betances. If I had it to do in December, I would have put Banuelos over Betances.
Really, coming into the year, in my head, Banuelos was ahead of Betances, even though last October it was the other way around. They basically had the same kind of year, and I think the industry consensus will tell you that clubs would take the left-hander in that situation. Most clubs would take the guy who's more of a normal size as opposed to the beast. Most guys would take the guy who has a delivery that should allow him to throw more strikes.
That said, I still have -- even outside the organization -- scouts that I've talked to have kind of liked Betances more than Banuelos over the years, just because he has bigger stuff. They both have one similar drawback, and that's they both had health issues -- obviously, Banuelos hasn't been cut on like Dellin has -- but I think Banuelos' walk rate was surprising this year, not what you'd expect from a compact, pretty good delivery left-hander. I really don't get a good answer on why his walk rate was what it was this year.
Some guys say he rushed his delivery, some guys say it's not being consistent -- a mental focus kind of issue -- I didn't get a consistent answer inside or outside the system as to why he struggled to throw consistent, quality strikes this year. I think people expect him to do that more than Betances down the line. Younger, left-handed, a delivery that's more conducive to throwing quality strikes, those are all good reasons to rank Manny Banuelos ahead of Dellin Betances.