While it may be a bit of a misnomer to call the 5'10", 155 lbs. lefty "big" in any sense of the word, I cannot help but be genuinely excited by his progress since signing out of Mexico last Spring. As a 17 year-old in the rookie level Gulf Coast League, Banuelos posted the following numbers last summer in twelve games (three starts):
4-1, 42 IP, 32 H, 13 BB, 37 K, .208 BAA, 2.57 ERA, 1.07 WHIP
Impressive doesn't quite cut it, to be perfectly honest. Elisaul Pimentel led the GCL in ERA in 2008, checking in at 2.41 - and he's nearly three years older than Banuelos. The diminutive lefty began 2009 in low Class-A. Check out his numbers thus far, through twelve starts:
5-3, 61 IP, 47 H, 14 BB, 57 K, .207 BAA, 2.51 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
Banuelos is currently sixth in the league in ERA - all five pitchers ahead of him are at least one year older (and two of which are three-plus years older). He is pitching well-ahead of even the most optimistic projections thus far, and I cannot help but think he can be even better with time - after all, he's only 18.
According to the Baseball America Prospect Handbook, Banuelos' fastball sits between 90 and 92 MPH, he changes speeds well, and he should develop a strong breaking ball. Other sources note that he has excellent command and the makings of a fantastic change-up.