The Tomahawk Take Top 20 Atlanta Braves Prospects: 6-10

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#10:  LHP Manuel (Manny) Banuelos

Oddly enough, given all of the trades, (Manuel) Manny Banuelos is the only member of this group who is not a home-grown Brave.  Obtained in early January in the trade for David Carpenter (one of them) and Chasen Shreve, John Hart probably fell all over himself to discover that he could get this Mexican-born southpaw from New York.  Of course, he probably had a similar reaction when learning that Kyle Kubitza could return Ricardo Sanchez.  That enthusiasm could be ratcheted back a notch, though.

The nearly 24-year-old Banuelos stands just 5’10” at 205 lbs., a size that modern scouts normally would characterize as undersized for a pitcher, particularly one that throws hard like Banuelos.  One scouting report suggests that he still generates mid-90’s fastball power due to a higher arm angle and “excellent” extension.

Banuelos was once an ‘untouchable’ prospect for the Bronx crew, being variously ranked anywhere from 13th to 41st overall between 2011 and 2012.  Then the specter of an old Yankee named Tommy John entered his life, costing him all of the 2013 and part of the 2014 seasons.  So things have certainly changed.  But it’s also possible that his troubles have run deeper.

Writing for, Wallace Matthews wrote this:

"“It would be easy to trace Banuelos’ problems to the Tommy John surgery, but an organizational source refused to give Banuelos that out when I spoke with him Thursday night. “Last year, his stuff just wasn’t as good,” the source said. “He’s had control problems and he’s only been able to throw 100 innings in the past three years.”"

When you look at Banuelos’ stats, it’s evident that he started running into problems at the AA level.  Fewer strikeouts.  Increased walks.  ERA in the 4-1/2 range.  Confidence is a big thing with pitchers… and often fleeting.  It is as if at that level, he stopped trusting his own ‘stuff’ and began nibbling.

Projection:  Depends on whether you wish to believe in the pre-surgery hype at this time.  The Braves seem to believe; the Yankees seem to think otherwise, as they clearly gave up on him once they saw no improvement, post-surgery.  Before that, the talk was of a pitcher in the upper half of anyone’s rotation.  Afterwards… he has dropped on many charts, and indeed could easily fall out of this Top 10 soon.  As such, Banuelos has the best chance in this group of #6-#10 to “bust”.

ETA to Majors:  Under the circumstances, Banuelos will likely have to re-prove himself at AA for a while.  Given the pitching now available in the upper minors, the Braves can afford to take their time with him and hopefully work him back into the shape he was when dominating in High-A (2010).  This could take some time.  2017?  2018?