Those who stuck around long enough during last night’s Red Sox-Yankees game were given quite the treat.
In addition to watching the impressive glove work of Red Sox prospect shortstop Jose Iglesias (here’s an example of what you missed), Yankees prospect left-hander Manny Banuelos struck out three over two scoreless innings of work.
Banuelos, who turns 20 years old later this month, is widely considered the best pitching prospect in the Yankees’ farm system. The 5-foot-10 left-hander has a 2.59 ERA over his first 215 2/3 professional innings, averaging 9.5 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. Baseball America recently ranked him as baseball’s 41st best prospect.
I hadn’t seen Banuelos pitch prior to last night, but I was mostly struck by just how smooth his delivery is for a 19-year-old. According to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, Russell Martin had even higher praise.
“He has as good stuff as I’ve seen,” said Russell Martin, who caught Banuelos’ two scoreless innings against the Red Sox on Friday. “I compare it to [Clayton] Kershaw or even more polished than Kershaw, which is pretty good.”
Oh boy. The New York hype machine has found its new best friend.
Bryce Harper, who said he was tired after taking his cuts in the first round, certainly appeared gassed in the final round. So, too, did his dad, who was throwing to him. But Harper caught fire, going on a tear and tying Kyle Schwarber with 18 home runs before time expired in the final round of the 2018 Home Run Derby. Harper unlocked 30 seconds of bonus time by hitting two home runs at least 440 feet. With his second swing in bonus time, Harper homered to straightaway center field for No. 19. He tossed his bat in celebration, grabbed his trophy, then gave it to his dad before he was mobbed on the field by his All-Star teammates.
Harper hit 13 home runs in the first round, eliminating Freddie Freeman and advancing to the semifinals. In the semis, Harper topped Max Muncy 13-12 to advance to the finals. On Schwarber’s side of the bracket, he bested Alex Bregman 16-15, then defeated Rhys Hoskins 21-20.
Harper is the first member of the Nationals (or Expos) to win the Home Run Derby. Harper participated in the 2013 Derby but finished in second place behind Yoenis Céspedes. Harper is also the first left-handed hitter to win the Derby since Prince Fielder in 2012. The only players to win the Derby in their home park are Todd Frazier in 2015 and Ryne Sandberg in 1990.
As a spectator, the 2018 Home Run Derby was tons of fun. The four-minute clock adds a lot of tension and intrigue even to the initial rounds. Seeing teammates cheer and get excited for their teammates in the Derby is really fun. Of course, watching dinger after dinger is cool, too. Can’t wait for next year.