Pittsburgh Pirates: Manny Bañuelos Working Toward Increased Role

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - AUGUST 05: Manny Banuelos #53 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Baltimore Oriolesat Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 05, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - AUGUST 05: Manny Banuelos #53 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Baltimore Oriolesat Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 05, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /
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Despite a poor outing on Sunday afternoon, Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Manny Bañuelos has been an underrated arm and could be working himself into a higher leverage role

Left-handed reliever Manny Bañuelos was acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the New York Yankees in early July. It was a pretty innocuous pick-up as the 31-year-old hasn’t had much major league success despite being a former top 30 prospect in the early-2010s. However, Bañuelos has been a very underrated waiver claim, so much so he could see a higher leverage role.

Bañuelos didn’t make a great first impression with the Bucs. He gave up five earned runs while recording just a single out in his first game in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform. But since that one game, he entered play on Sunday having pitched 13.2 innings allowing just one earned run. He had struck out 32.7% of batters faced while having a solid 9.6% walk rate. Bañuelos has yet to give up a home run as he has a 53.6% ground ball rate and has held opponents to just an 80.2 MPH exit velocity.

The southpaw doesn’t have high leverage stuff, at least on paper. His fastball and sinker average out around 93-94 MPH, putting him at the 48th percentile of fastball velocity. But his fastball has just 2016 RPM, and his sinker comes in below 2000 RPM. His curveball and slider also have below 2500 RPM. However, while Banuelos doesn’t have very high spin rates on his offerings, he has a high active spin or the spin that affects the movement of a pitch. His change-up, four-seamer, and sinker all have an active spin percentage of 90% or higher.

Bañuelos is doing three things you love to see from pitchers: he’s getting strikeouts, preventing hard contact, and keeping the ball on the ground. An 80.2 MPH exit velocity is simpily beyond elite.

Including his work with the New York Yankees and even his poor debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he still entered Sunday with the 17th best opponent exit velocity in baseball among pitchers with at least 25 batted ball events. His last 13.2 innings have yielded a 30.7% out of zone swing rate, which is below the league average of 32.5%, but his out of zone contact rate is just 50% and the league average is 63.7%.

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Bañuelos has been a very good reliever since arriving in Pittsburgh, and a good left-handed reliever is an uncommon commodity. If the Pirates feel Bañuelos can be a high-leverage reliever and a set-up man, they should take advantage of it. It’s not often you get a quality, high-leverage reliever off the scrap pile.

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