Friday, December 29, 2006

Prospect Profile: Dellin Betances (#5)

Age: 18
Height: 6'7"-6'9" (Depending on who you ask)
Weight: 185-215 (Again, depending on who you ask)
Drafted: 8th Round in 2006 out of High School
Position: Starting Pitcher
Throws: Right

Fastball: Betances is 18 years old. He is a big guy. He has yet to put a lot of muscle on his frame. He throws a 93-97 mph fastball, hitting 98, with nasty movement on it. He throws it with command and consistent mechanics. His fastball can do nothing but improve. Betances entered camp a raw talent, throwing 3-4 mph slower and with a mechanical delivery all over the place. The Yankees took him in and almost immediately corrected his flaws, resulting in a beautiful product.

Curveball: Betances throws a knuckle curve. He entered camp with a slight feel for it, but it was not much of a weapon. As would be a theme for Betances, this would change almost immediately. In less than two months, Betances transformed a pitch which he had little feel for in to a true plus pitch. His curveball is a strikeout weapon that sits in the low 80s.

Changeup: Yet again, Betances entered camp without much of a changeup. In fact, he entered camp barely knowing how to throw one. At least he had some experience with a curveball. With a little instruction, Betances was almost instantly able to throw a plus changeup, which compliments his fastball perfectly. He does not yet use it as a strikeout pitch, but that could change in the future.

Command: Betances entered camp with the typical "tall man syndrom", meaning that he had difficult repeating his delivery. That lasted about a week. To compare, it took Randy Johnson the better part of a half decade to do the same. That said, Betances is not 6'10". People tend to overestimate height, and I would say that Betances is more likely closer to 6'7" than 6'9". After that week of adjustment, Betances never let up. He was dominant.

Performance: Betances has a short pedigree in professional baseball. After signing, he tossed 23.1 innings (the Yankees limited his workload, as they do with a lot of 18 year olds), striking out 27, walking 7, and allowing just 3 earned runs (1.16 ERA). Betances did this following a 40+ inning high school performance where he struck out over 100. Why did he fall to us in the 8th round? Well, there are a few reasons. First off, no one thought that he would sign. Second, he pretty much said "If I am going to sign, it is only going to be with the Yankees". Third, he was not a three pitch pitcher prior to attending the Yankee camp. He tossed a live fastball and had little in terms of secondary pitches. This is a steal.

2007 Outlook: Dellin will certainly head to Charleston, where he will join a very talented rotation. The Yankee goal in 2007 will likely to simply keep Betances healthy, marginally effective, and adjusted to everyday baseball. He has no lingering issues with injury to worry about, but at such a young age who knows what health problems he may encounter in the future. He could very well take the Phil Hughes path, moving up to Tampa after some limited time in Charleston. If he manages to pitch 120+ innings, we Yankee fans should be very optimistic about his future. If he dominates Charleston, we may have another top-flight prospect on our hands.

Health: Incomplete. He is too young to determine anything about his health, although he has no immediately apparent health issues.

Ceiling: Betances has no ceiling. He is that good. If he can continue to stay mechanically clean and throw three plus pitches, he will be a success in this league. He is so young that he should be considered years ahead of schedule. I have not seen Betances pitch, but after reading a lot about him something struck me. He knows how to adjust. He quickly learned pitches, he quickly learned how to fix his mechanics, and he quickly learned how to attack hitters in professional baseball. Who does this remind me of? Phil Hughes.

Reaching Ceiling: He is so young that he will have dozens of opportunities to fail. Nothing can really be said about this right now.

Comparison: Can I say Phil Hughes? I guess I cannot. Besides a few inches and a few ticks of velocity, the two prospects seem to be mirror images of each other. Since I cannot say Phil Hughes, I am going to compare Betances to a healthy Mark Prior.

My take: I originally had Betances rated much lower, for the same reason that I rated Montero lower. But I stepped back and reflected on my choice. Betances is very young and very inexperienced. However, I cannot ignore how quickly his pitching intelligence kicked in and he adjusted his game. Some players just have it. They just know how to play. It is natural for them. Betances seems to be a natural. I am going to cautiously predict that Betances will have a Hughes-like rise to power, becoming a top-5 pitching prospect in this league in the next few years. Yankee fans should be very excited about him. His height and velocity give him an advantage over a guy like Hughes. Cross your fingers that he stays healthy.