With the hype machine firing on all cylinders, New York Yankees phenom Manny Banuelos took the mound on Monday night in a nationally televised game against the big league lineup of the Boston Red Sox just one day after his 20th birthday. While he struggled with his command at times, he was otherwise worthy of the praise he's been receiving, as he showcased well above-average velocity and an outstanding changeup that generated silly-looking swings from two of Boston's best hitters: Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. One scout watching the game said he was tempted to put an 80, the highest possible score, on the pitch.
With the Yankees' rotation in more than a bit of flux, the calls from fans for Banuelos to be part of the immediate solution continue. He'll make at least one more appearance with the big league team, likely on Saturday, but he's going to the minors after that, and it's the right decision for the Yankees long term.
Twenty-year-old starting pitchers in the big leagues are rarities, but having a player like Banuelos, who has made just three starts above Class-A ball, in the big leagues would be nearly unprecedented. Seventeen pitchers this decade have come up as starters prior to their 21st birthday, and the one constant among them was a full workload the previous year, as they averaged more than 140 innings in the year prior to their debuts, with all 17 pitching at least 100 frames. In addition, only three of the 17 -- CC Sabathia (2001), Jeremy Bonderman (2003) and Rick Porcello (2009) -- opened their debut year in the majors, with the remaining 14 averaging more than 100 minor league innings in the season they first got the call.
Make no mistake about it, Banuelos could at the very least hold his own in the big leagues right now, but the real question revolves around how long he could do it.