Jesus Montero has been dethroned in the latest edition of MLPW. Find out who Judas’d him.

Minor League Players of the Week (v18):

Manuel Banuelos, 19, LHP, A+
5 IP, 7 K, 2 BB, 2 H, 0 ER

NoMaas Ranking – Pre-Season Top 10: #3, Mid-Season Top 20: #3

Previous Wins – Week(s): 13 – Month(s): July

After a dominant July, in which he won NoMaas’ Pitcher of the Month, Banuelos hasn’t slowed one bit in August. With three starts this month (one being a rain-abbreviated, 1.0 inning affair), Manuel has yet to surrender a run, earned or unearned. It’s only been twelve innings, but it remains impressive nonetheless.

Banuelos’ 2010 campaign has held one huge development for the young southpaw: an increase in velocity. A year ago on any given night, he would sit in the upper 80s/low 90s with his fastball, touching 92. This season, Manny has seen a huge uptick on the radar guns, which now have him running his heater up to 95. For a left-handed hurler who already has a great feel for pitching and strong secondary pitches, this could be huge. While it remains to be seen whether this change will stick, the potential to turn his biggest weakness (besides height/frame) into a plus tool… it suffices to say that it would be awesome.

This velocity jump has lead to some similarly increasing peripherals, both for the better and for the worse. Manny’s walk rate has gone from exceptional in 2009 (6.3 BB%) to merely acceptable in 2010 (8.9 BB%). It’s certainly not the direction you want to see a pitcher move in, but you’ll take it when it’s coupled with a ballooning propensity for the strikeout. Banuelos’ K-rate last year was good (23.8%); this year it’s great (35.0 K%). That’s a crazy number and is (probably) in no way sustainable, but it’s fun to look at and at least tells us that his ability to strike people out isn’t waning as he progresses up the minors. Hopefully, as Manny begins to understand and get a better feel for his newfound fastball, we see his free passes come back down to some more comfortable levels.

Position Player:
J.R. Murphy, 20, RHB C, A
.458/.458/.875 in 24 PAs

NoMaas Ranking – Pre-Season Top 10: #7, Mid-Season Top 20: #10

Previous Wins – Week(s): 16

There certainly seemed to be an adjustment period to pro-baseball for Mr. Murphy, who started out with a lackluster May that saw him post a .574 OPS. Since then, it’s been all uphill for the Bradenton, Florida native as his numbers have gone up every month, (OPS – June: .654, July: .741) culminating in an August offensive explosion (1.011). His 3-6 game on the 13th is the crowning jewel of his run (so far) and included two home runs with nine RBIs. I don’t put a lot of stock in that last statistic, but it’s a staggering number for a player at any level and I can’t imagine he’s had many games like that in his life, so congratulations to him.

Murphy’s power was certainly apparent in that game and it’s been a constant since the start of July (.184 isoP). His numbers on the season display a solid amount of pop (.131), an impressive tool for a catcher. If you take that into account with the fact that he’s among the youngest players in the Sally League and facing pitchers 2-3 years older than him on average, his season thus far can only be considered a success and he seems to be getting better. Murphy is smack dab in the middle of a monster streak and if he keeps it rolling, he could improve upon his already strong numbers.

Honorable Mentions:

Slade Heathcott, 19, LHB CF, A
.333/.467/.500 in 30 PAs
Excellent patience at the plate (12.6 BB%), but strikes out a bunch (27.1 K%).

Jesus Montero, 20, RHB C, AAA
.409/.435/.773 in 23 PAs
Barely, barely missed winning for another straight week. Ridiculous recovery from a slow start.

Dellin Betances, 22, RHP, A+
5 IP, 9 K, 0 BB, 5 H, 1 ER
Serious firepower in the Tampa rotation with Banuelos, Betances and Stoneburner.

Ivan Nova, 23, RHP, AAA
7 IP, 8 K, 1 BB, 1 H, 1 ER
For a guy who struggled to put his tools together for so long, they sure came together quickly.