Who is Brian Bannister?
Bannister, 25, is the son of former big league pitcher Floyd Bannister (file photos), who won 134 games in a 15-year career, 16 of them for the 1983 AL West champion White Sox. Like his dad, the son is listed at 6'1". Unlike his dad, Brian is a righthander. Baseball America rated Bannister, a seventh round pick out of Southern Cal in '03, the No. 6 prospect in the Mets' system (second among pitchers). On the basis of a superb Grapefruit League performance (0.95 ERA in 19 IP), Bannister moved faster than most expected; BA, for one, anticipated him starting the year at Norfolk. BA projects Bannister as a No. 4 or 5 starter in the big leagues, noting he throws a flat 90-mph fastball, a cutter, an inconsistent 12-to-6 curveball, and a changeup, which Bannister hasn't yet mastered.
The BA scouting report says that Bannister tends to leave balls up in the strike zone, a proclivity that has not necessarily played out in his minor league statistics:
YR TEAM IP HR 03 St. Lucie 46 0 04 Brooklyn 110 6 04 Bing'ton 44 2 05 Bing'ton 109 11 05 Norfolk 45 0
It should be noted, however, that Bannister's minor league stops have all been, according to the three-year weighted park factors, in pitchers' parks, a couple with ridiculously low home run indexes.
What does "Bonsall" mean?
I have no idea why I remember the name, but Brian Bonsall played Andrew Keaton on Family Ties, who was sort of a jump-the-shark character on two levels. First, the character was a later-in-life "new baby to advance the plot" type of gimmick foisted near the end of the show's run. Second, the character aged at the light-speed known only to sitcoms, going from a mere baby one season to a Brian Bonsall the next; he aged at least five years in one offseason. Though I had pretty much stopped watching the show by then, I recall the writers having fun with the concept. Not only was Andrew all "Alex P. Keaton-ish," but there were references to him doing all kinds of obnoxiously precocious things, like driving (off-screen, of course).
Anyway, Brian Bannister's rapid rise into the Mets' rotation sort of reminds me of the same thing. I'm not an observant follower of New York's farm system, but just the same, I had never really heard of the guy before this spring. On perhaps a related note, Amazin' Avenue's main page poll asks whether substituting Bannister for Aaron Heilman in the rotation was "very dumb" or merely "dumb."
Nat at Bat: Brian Schneider. Struggled badly in the opener, but will be facing a righty, against whom he has a noticeable (though not dramatic) platoon split.