Back in 2006, the Yankees, with their eighth-round pick, drafted a Brooklyn high-school kid named Dellin Betances.
The Yankees knew he was raw, but, at 6-foot-8, 260 pounds, figured , with his ability to throw a fastball in the 97 mph range, he was worth a $1 million investment.
So, six years later, as the 2012 minor-league season heads toward a climax, how is this $1 investment looking. Will Betances succeed, or will he end up like Andrew Brackman, whom the Yankees invested over $4 million in and who now pitches for Class-A Bakersfield in the Cincinnati chain?
Betances, who had elbow ligament surgery in 2009, appeared to be making progress with command and consistency in 2010 and 2011. He began 2010 by going 8-1, 2.11 in 17 starts at Class-A Tampa with a strikeout-walk ratio of 88-19. Florida State League batters hit .169 against him.
A late-season promotion to Double-A Trenton followed, with Betances making three starts and performing well in the Eastern League playoffs.
“Betances has made some excellent progress, in mechanics and command,’’ said a scout from another American League team at the time.
Things were looking up in 2011, as Betances, still only 23, went 4-6, 3.42 in 21 Trenton starts – the strikeout-to-walk ratio was 115-55 and Eastern League hitters batted just .215 against him. His curve and changeup began hitting the strike zone more. After cups-of-coffee at both Triple-A and with the Yankees – 0-0, 6.75 in two appearances – he was deemed ready for Triple-A.
This is when matters began to go awry.
His command regressed at Triple-A Scranton, where, in 16 starts, he was 3-5, 6.39 with a strikeout-walk ratio of an unacceptable 71-69. This brought about a demotion to Double-A Trenton, where Betances is 3-2, 5.36 and has allowed 61 hits in 48.2 innings and Eastern League hitters are batting .311 against him.
“My goal in Trenton is to get everything back together and get back to Triple-A,’’ said Betances. “I know I can correct what I have to correct.’’
But, as the group The Essex sang in 1962, it’s “Easier Said Than Done.’’
If one looks at Betances’ last five Trenton starts, his performance has been like a roller-coaster at one of the many area amusement parts – down-up-and-down.
For instance, a start vs. Reading July 22 resulted in seven runs and 10 hits allowed in three innings. Neither command nor body language was satisfactory.
“This was a game where I felt good with my stuff in the bullpen, but had nothing when I got to the mound. It will be better next time out,’’ said Betances.
The next three starts were much better – July 26 vs. Harrisburg, Aug. 2 vs. Altoona and Aug. 7 vs. Reading, in which he allowed just six earned runs in 17 innings and picked up a pair of wins.
“Right now, I’m feeling good,’’ said Betances after the Aug. 7 performance. “I’m putting my pitches where I want to. I feel confident.
“I really feel I’m ready to go back up to Triple-A.’’
However, the bottom again fell out in Altoona Aug. 12, where Betances allowed eight runs and 10 hits in four innings. In looking at his nine Eastern League appearances, the strikeout-walk ratio is a solid 46-22, but EL hitters have batted .311 against him. He is hittable.
This has not been a good years for the trio known as the “Killer Bs.’’ Brackman’s option was not picked up, Betances has struggled and Manny Banuelos was recently shut down with elbow issues after pitching ineffectively.
Young pitchers, as they develop, can drive both scouts and team officials batty. Yet, the question persists. What do the Yankees do with Betances?
Can he correct what is happening and flash what was seen in 2010 and parts of 2011 and remain a starter? Is he really a reliever, but is he too hittable and too command-inconsistent to handle a role there.
Betances is the Yankees’ No. 3 prospect according to Baseball America, but a guy with a definite “Million Dollar Question.’’
Photo Courtesy: Mike Ashmore – Thunder Thoughts
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