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Spring Training, Prospects and the Circle of Life

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.

5 comments

1 Mattpat11   ~  Feb 23, 2011 2:55 pm

You know, I'd a generic fat, unpredictable middle reliever than Joba, even if they give the same results. Even if he develops into a fine sixth inning pitcher or whatever the latest low bar set for him is, there will always be a sense of what might have been.

2 Bronx Boy in NC   ~  Feb 23, 2011 2:57 pm

"We have guys that can help us this year" sounds to me like Organization-speak for "We would like to depress the trade market and not get held quite so much at gunpoint to complete our front five, please."

3 Shaun P.   ~  Feb 23, 2011 4:00 pm

I understand the Pettitte-Banuelos comparison - but after I saw the kid the first time, the guy I immediately thought of was ole Louisiana Lighting. He's a lot closer in height, to boot.

[2] I'd like to see them use some of the organization's pitching depth, instead of relying on the Colon-Garcia pu-pu platter.

4 RIYank   ~  Feb 23, 2011 7:15 pm

[3] Interesting. I think I've heard comparisons to Gooden, but now I can't find any.

5 Emma Span   ~  Feb 23, 2011 10:17 pm

[3] [4] Pettitte, Gator and Gooden?! Yeesh, hope that kid doesn't Google himself.

Speaking of Gator, there was a great story in the Times today about his friendship with Yogi Berra:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/24/sports/baseball/24yogi.html

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