It seems like a lifetime ago that YankeeWorld was obsessed with three minor-league pitching prospects: The Big Three of Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy. And even though our wildest dreams for that trio might not have come true, given the unpredictability of pitching prospects in general (TINSTAAPP!), it’s actually pretty impressive that they’ve had as much success as they have. Ian Kennedy is 26, started 32 games for the Diamondbacks last year and came out of it with an ERA+ of 111; Phil Hughes is still finding his way a bit, but at 24 gives every sign of becoming a solid stater; and Joba, well, if we’re all a little disappointed, he still may well end up being a valuable major leaguer. Hopes for those three were so high – it’s easy to forget that while they didn’t turn into the trio of aces that we might have imagined in our less guarded moments, all of them have been helpful to major league teams, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Anyway, spring training is the time to dream on these things. Now we’ve got a brand-new trio of new prospects to hang our hopes on, the junior Killer B’s: Andrew Brackman, New York’s own Dellin Betances, and Manny Banuelos. There have been encouraging stories and profiles on each of them recently – ’tis the season – and even for a cynical veteran of spring training coverage it’s easy to get caught up in the high hopes. Even as I was writing this post, we got this from the YES Network’s Jack Curry:
There’s a lot to like about each of those guys. Brackman may be the one I’d most like to see succeed this year, just because he’s been in the organization the longest and, a year ago, looked like he might be a bust. Bettances is a NYC kid and, as detailed in the link above, was in the bleachers for David Wells’ perfect game – you’ve gotta love that. And Banuelos, from Mexico, very nearly a foot shorter than either of those guys and a crafty lefty in the making, will be a fine underdog in this six-footed race (although it seems horribly unfair that he’s already being compared to Andy Pettitte. No pressure or anything).
It’s human nature to dream on these kids but I hope we don’t have such crushing expectations for them that, as with The Big Three, it’ll seem disappointing if in three years they aren’t all dominant aces. Growing your own innings-eaters and relievers is nice too, and if all of these guys end up healthy and in the majors that’ll be quite a success in its own right.