One of the New York Yankees top prospects returned to action this week after spending most of April on the disabled list. Manny Banuelos started his first game in almost a month, pitching 3.2 shutout innings with no walks and five strikeouts. He allowed only two hits. For what it's worth, the Rochester Red Wings are one of the worst hitting teams in the International League.
Banuelos' start was an encouraging sign for Yankees fans, because his first two starts of the season were abysmal. He pitched 5.1 innings in April, allowing 14 hits, seven walks and six runs while striking out just two batters. He'll likely spend all of 2012 in Triple A and open 2013 in the Yankees starting rotation. He projects as a number two starter in the big leagues.
Find out what other Yankees prospects performed well in this week's minor league update.
Pitcher Of The Week: Mark Montgomery (5 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 Ks, Win, Save)
The 2011 11th-round pick is a one-pitch – a devastating slider – pitcher, which is why he projects as a late-inning reliever in the Majors. His slider is already a good enough pitch to get big leaguers out, which is why he could move through the system quickly. His fastball is average, sitting at 91-92.
Last season between rookie ball and low A, Montgomery pitched 28.1 innings and struck out 51, while sporting an ERA below two. This year he's in the Florida State League, which he's still fairly young for, at 21 years old (the average pitcher's age in the Florida State League is 23) yet he's been flat-out dominant as the Tampa Yankees primary closer. Another great thing about Montgomery's 2012 season is his 4.25 GO/AO ratio – which is amazing, but unsustainable. It should be noted that the FSL is the worst-hitting league of all the high A leagues in the minors.
Montgomery is one of my favorite lower-tier prospects in the Yankees organization and should be in Trenton by season's end.
Hitter Of The Week: Ramon Flores (.419 average, 4 Double, 1 RBIs, 5 BBs, 3 Ks, 2 SB)
There weren't too many great hitting performances this week, but Flores gets the nod for his high average, BB:K ratio and modest speed.
It's nice to see Flores string together a few good games, because he was nothing short of awful in April – a month in which his trip slash line was .207/.276/.230. In six games this month his trip slash is at.400/.484/.560, so there are signs of improvement.
Flores had a nice 2011, hitting 11 homers and stealing 13 bases – while only getting caught twice – in 125 games for the Charleston RiverDogs. He's one of the more polished hitters in the system and possesses a great eye at the plate. Problem is, he doesn't have a ton of upside and projects as a solid MLB player, but nothing special.
Top 10 Prospect Spotlight: Dante Bichette Jr.
Son of former all-star, Dante Bichette, junior is one of the top prospects in the Yanks system. He was selected in the supplemental first round last year and won the 2011 Gulf Cost League MVP, but has gotten off to an extremely slow start this season.
In 2012, Bichette's triple slash is a terrible .215/.305/.247 and he's yet to hit a home run. The good news: at 19 years old, he's still young for the South Atlantic League, and his 12:18 walk to strikeout ratio remains impressive for such a young hitter.
Right now he plays third base, but might move to the outfield in the future. With good power and a good approach, he projects as an above average hitter, regardless of what position he plays. Although he's only batting .132 in his last 10 games, I expect him to turn it around eventually.
Top 10 Prospect Spotlight: Mason Williams
Williams was in our spotlight last week, but he's worth mentioning again this week, and probably every week. He's the Yankees top hitting prospect and arguably their top prospect, period. The 20-year-old outfielder was a fourth-round selection in 2010 and possesses the most athleticism in the entire system, which also helps make him the best defensive outfielder. Even if he doesn't live up to his potential, he should at least make the big leagues as a fourth outfielder.
Williams injured his shoulder on the first day of the week and was removed from the game after only one at-bat, but returned to the startling lineup four days later and picked up right where he left off.
He went 5-for-15 this week this week, with two doubles, one HR, one BB, zero Ks and three SBs (caught once). Ideally, he'd walk more often, but his low strike out rate makes partially makes up for his low walk rate.