For the several week period while I was out of the country, a lot of exciting things have happened. The draft obviously tops the list, as the Yankees look to have taken a new direction by taking more high-ceiling athletic high school players than they have in past years, including Cito Culver, Angelo Gumbs, and Mason Williams. I was surprised as anyone about the Culver pick, but given the Yankees’ track record at taking the top player on their board in the first round, I will give Damon Oppenheimer the benefit of the doubt. Jesus Montero has continued to struggle in AAA, though his performance has gradually improved. The beginning of the Staten Island and Gulf Coast League seasons, and especially the debut of Gary Sanchez, are also quite intriguing. Nothing has been as exciting, however, in the last few weeks, as the impressive return of Dellin Betances.
22 year-old Dellin Betances has more or less fallen off the prospect radar following a disappointing and injury-shortened 2009, with a 5.48 ERA and 27 walks in 44 1/3 innings (though the 44 strikeouts were a good sign). In his injury-filled career, he was only able to complete a full season once (in 2008), when he threw 121 2/3 innings. After having elbow surgery in 2009, it was easy to dismiss Betances, then 21, as unlikely to ever approach the tantalizing potential that he flashed as a high-ceiling draftee in the ballyhooed 2006 draft class, and in his dominant 23 1/3 inning stint in the Gulf Coast League after signing as an 8th-round pick.
Betances made his season debut for high-A Tampa on June 10 with a stellar outing, giving up 3 hits and a run on 6 hits, with 6 strikeouts. He followed this up with two even better performances on June 15 and June 22nd. On the season, the 6’8″ righty has allowed just one run in 18 innings, with a ridiculous 21:2 strikeout:walk ratio, demonstrating that his stuff and control may be back. Kevin Goldstein had high praise for Betances, writing:
…Just as scary, one of baseball’s most notable high-risk/high-ceiling pitchers is impressing with his stuff as well, sitting comfortably at 93-95 mph with his fastball, throwing his plus curve for strikes, and showcasing a surprisingly solid changeup.”
Betances’ biggest problem (besides health) has been control, and his curveball historically has been inconsistent. If he is commanding the curve and flashing a good changeup to go along with mid-90′s heat, prospect watchers will have to get back on the Betances bandwagon. Obviously it’s premature to get too excited about an 18-inning sample, but if Dellin can keep this up, he could find himself in Trenton. But for now, he makes up part of a strong Tampa pitching staff that includes erratic but improving Andrew Brackman (5.10 ERA on the season, but fanned 11 in 6 innings on June 14), the dominant Graham Stoneburner (1.93 ERA, 39 k’s and. 11 bb’s), and Adam Warren (2.86 ERA, 48:14 k:bb, 2.41 GO/AO). Hopefully he can keep this up.