The last time the Yankees had a infield regular under 5-foot-10 was Chuck Knoblauch, at 5-foot-9. Ronnier Mustelier is even shorter than that. In fact, Mustelier is shorter than Mike Gallego, the diminuitive shortstop for the Yankees in the early 1990′s just before the emergence of Derek Jeter. Gallego measured 5-foot-8. Mustelier is actually 5-foot-7, and based on some reports even that is generous.
Aside from having a physical quality that will make him an instant fan favorite upon his arrival with the Yankees, Mustelier has many qualities that are certain to give him a much better shot at sticking in the major leagues than say, Jorge Vazquez. Similar to Vazquez, Ronnier Mustelier can flat out hit. He doesn’t possess some of the same weaknesses that kept Vazquez from ever seeing a pitch for the Yankees. He can actually play the field, which was a serious hole in Vazquez’s game. He also doesn’t strike out much.
I would be remiss to exclude the two major factors working against Mustelier at this point; the aforementioned height issue and his age. His height, while it makes him a great story and inevitably well-liked by the fans, will be a disadvantage for him in the field, and will give scouts a reason to discount his power potential. In a small sample size at Trenton, however, he had five homeruns which is one off the league lead. He also had an OPS of 1.010 through 100 at bats. His overall triple slash is .351/.407/.577 across two levels this season.
If Mustelier was 22 years old, these stats would be impossible to ignore and he might even be considered a top prospect. The truth of the matter, however, is that he is 27 years old and it is very possible that he just hasn’t found his level yet. At 27, there isn’t going to be much more player development. If he reaches Triple-A and cannot hit there, he’s done. If he reaches the majors and cannot hit there, he’s done. As pessimistic as that sounds, I am actually very optimistic about Mustelier.
There is a good chance at this point that he will be able to hit major league pitching. It is too early to tell whether he can even hit at Triple-A, but his first few games would indicate that he has hit the ground running with no adjustment period. He is 3/9, and got gypped on what should have been a double by a scorekeeper in typical Empire State no home stadium Yankees fashion. He should really be 4/9.
There are other reasons to be optimistic. Every scout seems to be on the same page in that he can hit. The only questions surround his defense. According to Mike Ashmore at Trenton, he is solid at third base, average in the outfield, and a nightmare at second base (although he only saw him play there once). If he can truly play those three positions then he could be a great utility man for the Yankees, even if he is just “average” at all of them.
With his bat, he would be a great late game pinch hitter, and a great fill in for A-Rod, Cano, and the whole outfield. He also swings the bat right-handed, so getting Brett Gardner or Curtis Granderson a break against a lefty is not out of the question.
It would appear that Ronnier Mustelier will spend the rest of the season in Triple-A. He is blocked by enough people that the Yankees are in a position to keep him there for now. If things change, Mustelier could quickly be in line for a promotion.
He is useful in many ways, and he’s already polished even for a 27 year old. He can hit and he can field, which are the only two facets of being a position player that are important in baseball when you get right down to it. The only things that stand in his way are his height and his age. If the Yankees can get past this, however, they may just have found themselves a diamond in the dirt, the dirt of Santiago de Cuba.
When we last spoke, you said that Mariana Bichette’s experiences on draft day hit close to home for you. Could you please tell us what you & your family were feeling throughout this process? Also, what was the family’s (especially Tyler’s) reaction upon finding out he was selected by the Yankees?
The emotions Mariana expressed in her interview about the anticipation, anxiety and apprehension that she hoped her sons heart wasn't broken were all the same emotions we experienced. We knew that Tyler was not going the first round, so we were able to sit back that evening and see who went where in the first round. Day two, different story. We were told to expect anywhere from 2nd through 10th round. Like Mariana, I too kept a detailed calender of visits, letters, emails, workouts and tests, however, there were a few other teams who conducted more detailed evals (evaluations), so we had some idea of where the interest was from.
Rounds 2 through 10 came and went, my heart sank, and I was filled with such anxiety, I was physically sick. Tyler eventually left the house. It was just too much to see your child disappointed. Finally during the 13th round the calls began from the teams we knew were deeply vested. ”If we draft you next round are you going to sign?” Of course the answer was yes. Finally, last pick of the 13th round we heard the Yankees announce his name! I called him and told him he was a Yankee. We laughed, screamed and finally came the tears. Tears of relief, tears of joy.
Tyler went in the 13th round, why did he fall so far in the draft? He has been dominant from the very beginning. Did teams feel that they couldn’t sign him?
A lot of people don't know that Tyler battled cancer during the draft process. We placed our son in the hands of God, and he persevered. He had been given a second chance, and he was signable. There was not even the chance of draft and follow for him. He was ready to chase his dream. The teams who were interested knew this and it gave them room to draft others who may not have been signable otherwise. But what it boils down to is you may have some ideas of teams and rounds, but nothing is etched in stone. Each organization has decision makers and you just never know until the names are called.
The state of Georgia always seems to produce a strong high school draft class every year. Tyler was the 13th Georgian high school player selected. He has significantly outperformed every single player before him, including 8th overall pick Delino Deshields Jr out of Woodward Academy. Would you say he plays with a chip on his shoulder, as if thinking “I deserved to be picked higher so I will prove it”?
Tyler doesn't play that way. He plays for the love of the game. He just goes out there and does what he does best every single night. He has always played with his heart as well as ability, he just plays 110% just like he has since he was 4. Unfortunately draft day can be a crap shoot, nothing is official until your name is called, doesn't matter what round you go in as long as you get there. And what a blessing and honor it is.
Did Tyler plan on beginning his baseball career or was he going to school if the right situation didn’t present itself? By that I mean the right team, the right money, etc…
After his battle with cancer we totally encouraged him to sign after the draft. Chris and I knew as well as Tyler knew he had been given a second chance. Do it. Chase the dream. With the MLB scholarship program, it was just the right move for him, life can be too short. He can always go back to college later on.
Lastly, what kind of advice would you give to the families that are preparing for next month’s draft?
As far as advice is concerned, all I can say is HOLD ON! Draft day is a roller-coaster ride. It is a very emotional several days. Remember that nothing is written in stone, anything can happen. Weigh your options, do your homework, make your decision as a family. Be honest and up front about your decisions. Most of all, ENJOY it, its an awesome ride. Best of luck to the young men and their families eligible for the 2012 MLB draft.
In the heart of Atlanta Braves country, Tyler Austin grew up a New York Yankees fan.
Born and raised in Conyers, Ga., a bedroom community just 25 miles southeast of Atlanta, Austin was surrounded by Braves fans.
This was the 1990s, when the Braves were the dominant team in the National League. When the Braves won 14 divisional titles and went to five World Series.
Austin’s father, Christopher, lived and died with each Greg Maddux pitch and Chipper Jones’ hit and had been a diehard Braves fan his whole life.
But not everyone in the Austin household did the tomahawk chop. Austin’s grandmother, Laverne Newsome, was a closet Yankees fan.
“She and I were really close, and I know my father didn’t like it that she was a Yankees fan,” Austin said.
There was the 1999 World Series matchup between the Yankees and Braves — the second time the two franchises had clashed for a title in the 90s. Tyler was just 8 at the time, but had already anointed Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter as his favorite player.
“Ever since I was five or six years old, Jeter was the man,” Austin said. “I just loved to watch him play.”
While Christopher Austin is still a devoted Braves fans, he is starting to come around to the Yankee pinstripes, mainly because Tyler is the Charleston RiverDogs starting right fielder and an up-and-coming prospect in the Yankees’ farm system.
“I wouldn’t say he’s cheering for the Yankees these days, but they are starting to grow on him,” Austin said with a chuckle.
On a team littered with young Yankees prospects — catcher Gary Zanchez, outfielder Mason Williams, shortstop Cito Culver and third baseman Dante Bichette, Jr. — Austin has quickly established himself as one of the RiverDogs’ top threats at the plate.
“He’s a gamer,” said Charleston RiverDogs manager Carlos Mendoza. “His work ethic is very impressive. He’s got power, he hits for average and he drives the ball all over the field.”
Through Sunday, Austin was leading the South Atlantic League in home runs (11), slugging percentage (.718) and triples (4). He was also fifth in RBIs, all the while hitting above the .300 mark.
“I think he’s been our most consistent hitter,” said RiverDogs hitting coach Greg Colbrunn.
Austin, 20, has quickly established himself as one of the elite power hitters in the SAL with a couple of tape-measure home runs to his credit. Earlier in the season, Austin crushed a ball into a stiff wind against Lexington that traveled well over 400 feet.
“I’m not sure how far it went, but there was no doubt it was gone the instant he made contact,” Colbrunn said. “He’s been fun to watch.”
Austin, who was selected by the Yankees in the 13th round in 2010, was drafted as a catcher out of high school and split time between first and third base during his first two pro seasons.
“He had a long way to go defensively,” said former RiverDogs manager Torre Tyson, who serves as the Yankees organizational defensive coordinator.
With Bichette being groomed as the third baseman of the future, Austin moved to right field this spring and has never looked back.
“He’s picked up the position faster than we thought,” Tyson said. “He runs well, he’s starting to get a better jump on the ball and he’s faster than you think.”
While some observers outside the Yankees organization might be surprised by Austin’s early success at the Class A level, Tyson is not one of them.
“He proved last year that he was a pure hitter and those guys are going to hit at every level,” Tyson said.
His grandmother passed away in 2001 and Tyler said he doesn’t think it was a coincidence that he was taken by the Yankees.
“I truly believe she’s up there looking out for me,” Austin said.
Trenton righty pitching well, picking up pointers from Pettitte
Brett Marshall is 4-1 with a 3.27 ERA in seven Double-A starts. (Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)
Brett Marshallwas one of several Trenton pitchers who benefited from the veteran presence of Andy Pettitte, who started for the Thunder on April 25 before making his much-anticipated return to Yankee Stadium on Sunday.
"It was great to have him here," said Marshall, a sixth-round pick by the Yankees in 2008. "You can pick his mind a little bit."
"It's always good for young guys to see how they go about their business," Trenton pitching coach Tommy Phelps said of Pettitte's stint with the Thunder.
But Marshall had met Pettitte before. He's from the same area of Texas as Pettitte, near Houston, and went to Sterling High School, which plays against Deer Park, Pettitte's alma mater, on an annual basis.
When Marshall was drafted by the Yankees out of high school, he got to meet Pettitte when New York played that summer in Houston, and the prospect also saw the big leaguer in Spring Training this year.
"He watched a little bit of my [pitching] video. He had some nice things to say," said Marshall, who has pitched well enough this season to make the Yankees take notice.
He pitched six scoreless innings May 10, allowing two hits in a 7-0 win at home against Portland and improving to 4-1 with an ERA of 3.27 over his first seven starts. In 41 1/3 innings, he has allowed 36 hits and 12 walks with 24 strikeouts.
"I feel good this year," Marshall said. "I'm just trying to stay consistent with everything. Spring training started out well, and we carried that into the season.
"One thing I worked on last year was to keep my arm angle consistent. I got that back to normal. Everything has been feeling good."
Marshall said he has focused on his fastball command and getting tighter rotation on his slider. Last year he was 9-7 with an ERA of 3.78 in 27 games, including 26 starts, at Class A Advanced Tampa of the Florida State League.
"He has really good stuff," Phelps said. "He has a power fastball with late life. He has a pretty good idea how to pitch. He is a great competitor. He has the stuff to get Major League hitters out."
Marshall pitches around 91-93 mph with his fastball, topping out at 94, and throws a slider and changeup.
Marshall is also pitching this year with a clearer mind knowing that his brother, Chris, is back in the United States after getting out of the U.S. Army last fall.
"He was in Iraq for 15 months and in Korea for a year. He was a football guy [in high school]. It is definitely a relief we don't have to worry about [his safety] every day," Marshall said.
Angelo Gumbs has always been one of a favorite Yankee prospect among the TYA staff, and not only because of his dynamic athletic ability and raw tools. Gumbs has often been overshadowed by other members of his draft class, including million dollar bonus baby Mason Williams and 1st-round selection Cito Culver. Gumbs’ pedestrian performance for Staten Island last year (.738 OPS), albeit at the tender age of 18, did not do much to impress the statistically-oriented analysts.
Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus was the first person in the scouting community to really take a shine to Gumbs (prospect-crush, if you will). Parks declared Gumbs to be a superior prospect to Culver while scouting the Staten Island team back in July 2011, and ranked him #5 in the Yankee system prior to the 2012 season. For reference, the highest anyone on the TYA staff had him was at #8 (that was Dominic, I had Gumbs at #11), and we both considered those ratings to be very aggressive. Parks had Gumbs ahead of more proven guys like Jose Campos and Dante Bichette who have fairly substantial ceilings themselves.
While Parks and others have seen plenty of room for improvement in Gumbs’ current skill set, his athletic ability and bat speed, combined with his young age, make him the type of player that scouts can dream on and project to make massive improvements. They look at his bat speed and see the potential for 20+ home runs from a middle infield position. They look at his speed and see the possibility of a major basestealer. Some see his defensive skill set as fitting best in centerfield long term, but they seem ok with Gumbs’ present ability to handle 2nd base (since Mason Williams has the Charleston centerfield job on lockdown).
Since 2012 is Gumbs’ first taste of full season ball, it was not surprising to see him struggle somewhat out of the gate. Unlike other more heralded teammates who came surging out of the gate (Tyler Austin, Gary Sanchez, and Williams), Gumbs has always been considered a raw player who still has work to do to convert his prodigious tools into usable baseball skills. Gumbs looked the part in April, putting up a meager .206/.295/.309 line (in 19 games), with 1 homer, 21 strikeouts, 9 walks, and 5 stolen bases.
May has been an entirely different story for Gumbs. In 12 games this month, he is hitting .353/.393/.471 with a homer, 11 strikeouts, 4 walks, and a ridiculous 14 stolen bases. Gumbs recently earned the South Atlantic League player of the week award for his strong performance. Gumbs is now just 1 home run short of his career high (3, compiled in Staten Island last season) and has already eclipsed his career high stolen base total (11 last year, compared to 19 total in 2012).
While his k:bb rate appear to have held constant (possibly indicative that there has not been a major change in approach), Gumbs has likely been hitting the ball with more authority this month, and being more aggressive on the bases. This is of course a small sample size, and Sally League pitchers will likely make adjustments to slow Gumbs down, both at the plate and on the bases. However, his peformance this May gives us an idea of the type of prospect (and player) Gumbs can eventually become if all goes well.
Whether he can put in the effort to make the adjustments necessary to get there is another matter, and one that will likely have a major impact on Angelo’s future. There will certainly be plenty of successes and struggles along the way for Gumbs as he moves up the ladder, but he has done a good job rebounding from a slow start this year. While there is still a long way to go, the tantalizing promise of Gumbs’ potential is somewhat closer to becoming a reality.
For a look at what he did before he was drafted you can check outmy draft write upon him. For a recap he was drafted in the 16th round out of Cal State-Long Beach. He is a 23 year old, right handed relief pitcher.
The 2011 season was a very impressive one for him. He played the season in Staten Island (Low A Short Season), where he was thier closer. In 24 appearances he went 2-2 with an amazing 1.16 ERA. He also converted 14 saves while pitching 31 innings. He had a great strikeout to walk ration, striking out 38 and only walking 5.
Going forward Pinder has a lot of promise. He had a lights out rookie campaign in Staten Island and should definitely get promoted to start the 2012 season. I would imagine that he will start the season at Charleston (Low A), since he does haveMark Montgomery, who had a very similar season to Pinder's at Charleston last season, right ahead of him. My biggest concern with Pinder is that he was converted to a reliever so early on in his career. Pitcher are usually converted to reliever when they just aren't as good as the starters. Therefore, for him to be a reliever already at Low A Short Season is not a good sign. However, with his very impressive stats last season he may be able to buck that trend.
Best Case Scenario: If Pinder continues to put up gaudy numbers a reliever the Yankees will have no choice but to continue to promote him throught thier system. Since he is already 23 I could see the Yankees trying to move him quickly through the system to see if can help them at the major league level. If everything goes well for Branden I could see him being in the majors as a September call up at the end of the 2014 season.
Worst Case Scenario: For Pinder it would be to flame out next season as he goes against better competition. Then toils around the minors for a few seasons before calling it a career.
Prediction: I think it reality will be somewhere inbetween the two scenarios above. I do believe he has some very real ability so I don't think he will flame out next season, however I also don't see him skyrocketing through the minors. I think he will get tested over the next few season, as he makes he way up through the system. I think he is in Charleston to start next season but if he performes could make it to Tampa (High A) before the season ends. Then, again depending on performance, could start the next season at Trenton (AA). This is all very dependent on how he performs. I believe he will make it to Trenton but then it may take him a few more seasons to make the jump to the pros. I predict that he will make the majors as a reliever during the 2016 season.
There are a number of under the radar prospects in the Yankees system, who have real potential to contribute to the Yankees down the road. In this segment I will profile some of those players.
The first player I will write about is Zoilo Almonte. Although he has gotten some press with his impressive spring training, I still believe he is a relative unknown to most Yankees fans.
Zoilo is a switch hitting outfielder who stands 5' 10" and weighs in at 165 pounds. He was signed out of the Domincan Republic in July 2005 at age 16 by the Yankees.
His first professional season was in 2006 in the Dominican Summer League (DSL). That first year and hit .219 with 6 HRs, 6 doubles, 28 runs, and 36 RBIs in 53 games. Although the batting average is not what one would like, the power numbers are pretty good.
He played the 2007 season in the Golf Coast League (GCL). There he hit .268 with 3 HRs, 11 doubles, 25 runs, and 24 RBIs in 50 games. This season his average went up but his periferals took a little hit.
During the 2008 season, Zoilo again played in the GCL. This season he regressed to hit .239 with 5 HRs, 7 doubles, 24 runs, and 20 RBIs in 57 games. This was not a good season for Zoilo. He saw almost all of his numbers decline in the same league he had played in the year before. Usually playing in the same league two years in a row is a bad sign especially when one doesn't drastically improve in year two. With Zoilo however, he made it through and got promoted.
The promotion occured to start the 2009 season. He started in Staten Island (Low A Short Season). There he put up the best numbers of his career up to this point. He hit .274 with 7 HRs, 20 doubles, 43 runs, and 39 RBIs in 69 games. This was a very promising season. The New York-Penn league where Staten Island plays is not known as a hitters league. Therfore this season was quite impressive for Zoilo. He was even selected as a mid season All-Star.
Following up the solid 2009 season he was promoted again, this time to Charleston (Low A). There he only spent a half season, hitting .278 with 10 HRs, 13 doubles, 33 runs, and 35 RBIs in 58 games. He was also selected to the Mid-Season All-Star game. After posting these good numbers he was promoted mid-season to the Tampa Yankees (High A). Finishing out the season he hit .261 with 3 HRs, 10 doubles, 26 runs, and 26 RBIs in 63 games. The second half of the season in Tampa was not as impressive. However, still decent numbers for a 20 year old.
Zoilo started the 2011 season back in Tampa. This time he excelled. He hit .293 with 12 HRs, 15 doubles, 38 runs, and 54 RBIs in 70 games. This put Zoilo on the map as a legitimate Yankees prospect. He showed he could hit for average and power, which is very coveted. He was then promoted to the Trenton Thunder (AA). There he struggled, hitting .251 with 3 HRs, 11 doubles, 23 run, and 23 RBIs in 46 games. Following this season MiLB.com named him a Yankees organizational All-Star.
This spring training, Almonte played with the big league squad. Up to this point he has hit .333 with 2 doubles, a run, and 4 RBIs. This caused Pinstipe Alley to do apiece on himbeing an outfielder of the future.
Going forward, I would expect Zoilo to go back to Trenton. Since he had a poor showing last season I would expect the Yankees to want to see him get a few more at bats there to try and prove himself. If he continues his hot hitting, I could see him being promoted to Triple A (Wherever they are at that point in the season) by midseason. From there it depends on how he produces. If he has a great year I would not be surprised if he got a September call up at the end of this season. If he has a bad year he could stay at AA. I think best case scenario for Zoilo is to have a great season this year, get that September call up and then fight for a roster spot in spring training next year. Zoilo is definitely a player to watch over the next few year as a possible replacement at corner outfield.
With 13 home runs and a 1.032 OPS entering today’s action, it’s safe to say Yankees outfield prospect Tyler Austin has officially broken out. Considering the Georgia native opened the season as arguably the eighth best prospect on his own team, the fact his home run output nearly equals the sum total of his teammates has prospect followers and Yankees fans alike excited. Current chatter even includes dreams of Austin, along with top-100 teammate Mason Williams forming two-thirds of the Bronx Bombers’ outfield of the future.
Video after the jump
But is all perfect in Tyler Austin’s prospect world? While his season has been a resounding success, a number of questions surrounding his all-around game will need to be put to rest for prospect mavens to feel comfortable inserting him into their respective top-100′s. What position will Austin play? How is he against off-speed pitches? Will his present in game speed translate at the major league level? While age and power play to his favor, other considerations not found in his stat line will go a long way in determining his value as a prospect.
At the plate, Austin put on the best offensive display of any player seen in person at the minor league level. Showing power to all fields, Austin belted two “no doubters” including a towering shot to straightaway right field on a fastball out over the plate. His second home run was a hard line drive pulled down the left field line which left the park in no time. It was an impressive display of raw power, but when Austin followed that performance with a four-hit effort the following night, it was obvious the right fielder was about to burst onto the prospect radar.
Austin’s powerful swing starts with extremely strong hands which allow for easy bat speed and an advanced ability to generate lift for his age. The 20-year old is at his best when able to extend on balls middle out, but struggled some with balls in on the hands. This is a common trait amongst hitting prospects at the level as I’ve previously made identical statements about other top prospects in Blue Jays catcher Travis D’Arnaud and Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado.
And while Austin was able to pulverize fastballs, one is forced to wonder how he will adjust to off-speed pitches. His swing is more one plane at this point meaning Austin takes a similar cut at every pitch whether it’s high, low, or belt high leading to strikeout totals which are borderline worrisome. This may be due to some perceived stiffness through his shoulders. But after seeing Will Middlebrooks surface as a power threat in Boston after doing his best Mr. Roboto impression when scouting him in 2009, I’m much less worried about that particular trait than I used to be.
On social media, I’ve received many questions about Austin playing third base as he has made a rather precipitous drop down the defensive spectrum from his days as a high school catcher. For those out there with fingers crossed the hot corner is in Austin’s future, there’s really no need to keep hope alive. His stolen base success has prospect followers under the impression Austin is more athletic than he actually is. If anything, Austin will slide down the spectrum further before all is said and done. This obviously means his bat will have to carry him to the Bronx.
In terms of speed, Austin’s 26 steals in 27 attempts (96% success) going back to 2011 is one of the most perplexing stats I’ve ever tried to wrap my head around. In game action, I clocked Austin at a 4.6 to first base with him pulling up the last few steps. Had he run through the bag, maybe that time becomes a 4.4 or 4.45 which still leaves Austin a present 35/40 on the 20/80 scale which is below average. Austin is unlikely to maintain his stolen base ability as he continues to move through the system, but his success at picking spots points to a high baseball IQ.
While writing this, Kevin McReynolds popped into my head as his reeling off 35/36 in stolen base attempts between 1987 and 1988 was one of the more memorable streaks of my childhood growing up a Mets fan. If one can remember how meticulous McReynolds was in picking his spots, it becomes easier to understand Austin having similar success against lesser defenders behind the dish.
When working on a comp for Tyler Austin using his current peripherals (9% BB, 23% K) and making the simple assumption he will carry those through to the big league level (easier said than done), I noticed most right-handed outfielders with a limited amount of athleticism and similar peripherals took time to establish themselves at the big league level. Ryan Ludwick is the best example of this as he debuted at 23 only to bounce around organizations before earning a starting gig and eventual all-star appearance at 28 with the Cardinals.
This isn’t to say Austin will take the same path, but Ludwick’s career triple slash line of .259/.331/.453 is similar to what a contact projected recently. Additionally, his 8.6% walk rate and 22.6% strikeout rate is nearly identical to what Austin’s current rates. Of course prospect followers excited about Tyler Austin would be disappointed by this outcome, but it’s important to view him through the appropriate lens. The New York Yankees have a potential above average big leaguer whom they drafted in the 13th round. Not many organizations can say that.
"There's only two people in the tri-state area who think this team is still a contender," a source told WallyMatthews. "Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine." ESPN
Yanks prospect working with coach on harnessing command
You don't have to watch Scranton/Wilkes-Barre right-handerDellin Betancesthrow many pitches to realize the 24-year-old is extremely talented.
His fastball crackles with life, sitting in the mid-90s and occasionally moving faster. He has a powerful curveball that has good movement and his changeup has the capacity to keep hitters off-balance.
So how to you explain a 2-3 record and 5.40 ERA in his first eight International League starts?
One reason is that the Brooklyn native is getting his first extended look at Triple-A hitters after making only four starts for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season.
"Triple-A hitters are more patient; they don't swing at bad pitches," Betances said. "It's a matter of being consistent. If you're consistent with your pitches, there isn't anybody you can't get out.
"That's something I'm working on with [pitching coach Scott Aldred]. My side [sessions] have been better, but now I have to take it out into a game."
Betances' last two starts are an example of his inconsistency. The 6-foot-8, 260-pounder limited Columbus to two hits and two walks while fanning seven over eight innings of one-run ball on May 9. Five days later, Betances surrendered five hits and six walks that turned into three runs in 3 2/3 innings in a loss at Toledo.
"I was working slow and I felt better [against Columbus]," he said. "After I gave up a home run [against Toledo], I started trying to do too much. That was messing me up.
"I was pulling away with the ball. My head wasn't in line towards home plate, and I think those things messed me up."
Aldred said he is working with Betances on some minor mechanical changes to his delivery.
"He's working on some things, trying to build up his legs under him a little more during his delivery to see if we can maybe shorten his stride a little bit," Aldred said. "We think that will help him stay under control a little bit better. He tends to get a little out of control and overthrow -- like most young, inexperienced guys."
While Betances has struggled with command, ranking among the league leaders with 35 walks in 40 innings, Aldred said he has the stuff to compete in the Major Leagues.
"His raw stuff is really good," Aldred said. "The velocity is there. He has a really good curveball and a really good changeup. We just have to harness it within the strike zone."
Opponents are hitting .233 against Betances, who's recorded 35 strikeouts and has a 1.75 WHIP. He said he hasn't lost confidence in his ability to get hitters out.
"I think the mechanical is the bigger issue," he said. "I feel good in my side [sessions], it's just a matter of taking it out into the game.
"We've got a lot of time left [in the season] and I'm feeling good. I'm sure I'll get it going, I just need to be consistent in a couple of starts, and if I do that, I feel I could take off."