Full Scouting Report: Manny Banuelos
Most intriguing about Banuelos are the huge steps forward he has clearly made this season. His velocity has spiked, his breaking ball is sharper, and now looks more like a front of the rotation starter than the solid-pitchability southpaw I scouted and was still highly impressed with in Charleston last season. Here is what I saw from Banuelos in his most recent outing:
Banuelos has a smallish frame, but has added some significant bulk and strength since I scouted him last season. Listed at 5-foot-10, he now has a solid frame with a thick lower half. He moves well around the mound and shows decent athleticism. And another good indicator of athleticism for young hurlers like him is the ability to repeat his delivery, and Banuelos does that exceptionally well.
At this stage, Banuelos is about where he should be long-term from a physical standpoint. Given the stocky nature of his build, he'll have to be careful about keeping his athleticism and body in check.
The owner of well-above-average command, Banuelos can credit that to his very consistent delivery. Working from a high-three-quarters arm angle, he gets excellent extension out in front and creates a nice downward angle despite his lack of height. Occasionally he'll run into the common problem of working underneath his pitches, however, and his typically sharp offerings flatten out up in the zone. It's a rut he will get into now and then, but at his age it's far from a serious issue.
This is where Banuelos' game has changed the most since the 2009 season. Last season, I had him sitting 90-92 with the fastball, touching 93. In his most recent outing, he sat 93-94 mph, never dipping below 92, and routinely hit 95-96 mph. Banuelos even touched 97 on a couple occasions. At that level of velocity, he has a true plus fastball, particularly for a left-hander.
He showed good life down in the zone with his fastball, and had only one of his fastballs turned on with any authority all night. In other words, the velocity was playing well and continued to produce late swings and swings and misses. Considering his age, Banuelos showed well-above-average fastball command, but will have to work on his feel for the inside part of the plate against righty hitters. He got somewhat predictable, working on the outer third and allowing hitters to dive out over the plate. And, in general, although you have to love his outstanding aggressiveness and strike-throwing nature, he proved to be a bit reckless with his location in the zone at times.
The curveball is another significant difference in the 2010 version of Manny Banuelos. When he stayed on top, his downer curveball was a consistent plus, 6 pitch on the 2-8 scouting scale. Working at 75-79 mph, he was able to back-foot it to right-handed hitters with tight, late spin. He was also able to backdoor it and consistently nip the outside corner.
The key for Banuelos' curveball is getting extension. Occasionally, at least in this particular outing, he cut his arm action off a bit early and the breaking ball got a little round. But when he's right and getting it down in the zone, it's a true swing-and-miss, above-average pitch.
The changeup has long been Banuelos' best pitch, and that continues to be the case despite the advances of his other pitches. He throws it at 78-82 mph with big two-seam action and dead-fish drop. When he's spotting it down and away it's clearly his most dominant offering. A couple times in this outing, he lapsed into pushing the changeup and left it up in the zone, but for the most part he was precise with his location. The left-hander looked extra confident with his change, doubling up at times and going to it in hitters' counts. It's this pitch that really sets him apart and will allow him to move quickly.
Look around the big leagues and find the left-handed starting pitchers that average 93 mph or better with their fastball. It's a very short list. Throw in the fact that Banuelos is a consistent strike-throwing machine with two above-average secondary pitches and you have a very rare commodity.
If you're looking for any negatives with Banuelos, it's his lack of size. But given the ease of his delivery, plus stuff and greatly advanced pitching aptitude, this is a particular talent that goes against the stereotype. If he can remain healthy and keep his shorter frame in check, he is a true front-of-the-rotation type pitcher.
Frankie Piliere spent the last three seasons working as a scout, most recently in the professional scouting department for the Texas Rangers in 2009. He now serves as the National Baseball Analyst here at FanHouse.