Left-Handed Reliever Manny Banuelos
Another former Yankee, Manny Banuelos hasn’t taken the most conventional route to the major leagues. Initially a top prospect in the Yankees’ system in the late-2000’s and early-2010’s, Banuelos was traded to the Atlanta Braves for David Carpenter and Chasen Shreeve when the Braves started their rebuild. Banuelos made his debut in 2015 but wouldn’t be seen in the major leagues again until 2019, this time with the Chicago White Sox. After 2019, the southpaw would play in multiple foreign leagues, including in Mexico, Japan, and China, before rejoining the Yankees once again in 2022.
But Banuelos’ return to his original organization was short-lived. He pitched just 8.1 innings for the Yanks before being designated for assignment. The Pirates then picked up Banuelos, making them the sixth organization he has been a part of and the fifth one he took the mound for.
Banuelos didn’t make the most remarkable first impression, allowing five earned runs in just a third of an inning. But after that outing, the lefty turned things around, pitching to the tune of a 3.62 ERA, 3.24 FIP, and 1.19 WHIP through his next 32.1 innings. Banuelos’ 11.6% walk rate was poor, but he struck out 24.6% of the batters he faced and allowed just a single long ball.
Banuelos’ biggest strength was definitely getting batters to ground out softly. He had a 52.5% ground ball rate and 84.2 MPH exit velocity. This led to a 2.4% barrel rate, meaning opponents rarely made quality contact vs. Banuelos. In layman’s terms, Banuelos made batters look like 2020-2021 Kevin Newman when they made contact. Newman had an 85.3 MPH exit velocity and 9.6-degree launch angle, and Banuelos had an 84.2 MPH exit velo and 10.1-degree launch angle.
Between his solid strikeout rate, ability to keep the ball on the ground, and ability to avoid hard-hit baseballs, Banuelos has the skills to be a potential high-leverage reliever for next season. It’s not often you find a quality reliever on the waiver wire, especially a left-handed one, but Banuelos could be just that next year and become a nice late-bloomer prospect story.