Manny Banuelos put together one of the most consistently solid performances in Triple-A last year. Dodger writers began to see a potential fit for the then 27-year-old lefty on the major league roster with the bullpen in a rather constant state of flux and pitching help, especially on the Dodgers, always welcomed.
But, Banuelos never got his shot. In 31 appearances (18 starts), the Mexican born southpaw pitcher threw 180.2 innings with a 3.73 ERA and 127 strikeouts. His output for the Oklahoma City Dodgers was admirable, his effort was necessary but all of it culminated in a season spent entirely down on the farm without a sniff of the major league roster.
Banuelos, especially coming into the 2019 season in which Dodger pitching looked to be overflowing, had no spot on the major league roster and, nearing his 30’s, the team was better off finding a suitor for him rather than hoarding the former top Yankees prospect. They found the White Sox.
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The Sox were looking for cheap pitching options they could use immediately in the majors, guys that profiled as a long man for a contender and players that would not cost them a lot of money once their contracts were in the system and players that would not cost a lot in prospects when the deal was all said and done. Banuelos fit that bill. He was a guy that didn’t demand a large ask and to the Dodgers he was useless. The deal was done.
The White Sox agreed to send back their 2017 12th round pick, a first and third baseman from SUNY Binghamton who had just completed his first year of pro-ball splitting the time between the White Sox rookie and Class-A full affiliates. His name is Justin Yurchak.
Yurchak did not really profile as much. He was fantastic with rookie ball in Chicago’s system and was no better than mediocre when he was promoted to A ball. He had power and proved that in college, his defense was good but, he through and through profiled as the proper return for Manny Banuelos.
Then Yurchak joined the Dodgers’ system. He was assigned to rookie league Ogden to not rush anything and for an opportunity to practically start everything over. The Dodgers got a new player, practically just drafted and they treated him immediately like that was the case. Since then, Yurchak has been phenomenal.
He doesn’t yet rank in the organization’s top-30 prospects but provided he continues the pace and perhaps receives a promotion to Rancho Cucamonga or Great Lakes, Yurchak is a lock to join the list. This year, in just 14 games played, the 22-year-old corner infield has smoked six home runs, 20 RBI’s and is hitting .434. He hasn’t been successful, he’s been incredible.
Yurchak has also proven what he was scouted to be capable of when he was playing college baseball. Yurchak was known for the bat, a powerful swing from the left side of the plate that provides a smoothness capable of making quality contact to go along with the home run swing. Yurchak’s offense was never an issue for him at Binghamton. There he hit .320 in 2017 and accompanied the average with three home runs and 26 RBI’s.
But, to grasp the magnitude of the already successful trade the Dodgers made this past November, it’s like “Zach Lee for Chris Taylor- the minor league edition”.
The Dodgers shipped a pitcher that was, in the grand scheme of things, obsolete in the system. There were better, younger and more useful pitchers surrounding a guy that was fine, sure, but unnecessary nonetheless. Banuelos was a used car at a new car dealership. He worked but he wasn’t the system’s best choice.
For a team like the White Sox, they didn’t need a new car so they bought used and since buying, Banuelos has broken down. In 2018, the 28-year-old has appeared in 13 games and made eight starts. In those, he’s pitched 45.2 innings and has a 6.90 ERA. Meanwhile, Yurchak is tearing the cover off the ball at the rookie level and his numbers are already begging a promotion.
So again, thinking long run the Dodgers by far got the upper-hand. They scored a prospect for an older minor leaguer and the prospect has shown out in emphatic fashion. Should he keep up the pace, he’ll be blowing the covers off baseballs and the Dodgers will be blowing the covers off that trade. Yurchak has been fantastic and the Dodgers, again, find a diamond in the rough.