The Hector Noesi Debate

(Courtesy Reuters)

The acrimony over the Hector Noesi situation (I can’t believe I just typed that) has reached its peak lately. In case you haven’t been following the insanity, the argument goes something like this: Hector Noesi is being handled poorly. Instead of being allowed to develop on the major league team, he’s rotting away in a long reliever role where he pitches infrequently and his potential is being wasted.

In an alternate universe where Hector Noesi profiles as a 1-3 type starting pitcher, I would totally agree with that. Unfortunately, this isn’t quite that parallel universe. We all know Noesi has one plus tool, which is command. He throws strikes and that’s great. He just doesn’t have the stuff to consistently miss bats that would allow him to profile in a larger role. He secondary pitches are average. Ordered from best to worst they’d look like this: Changeup, slider and curveball. None of those are good enough to produce a lot of swing and misses at the major league level right now. Sure, Noesi was able to rack up good strikeout numbers in the lower minors when he was a bit old for the levels. The last time he had a K/9 over 8, he was a 23 year old in Tampa with almost 200 professional innings of experience. Guys with 4 pitches and good command tend to have pretty good numbers down there. Understandably though, his K/9 has been dropping the higher he has climbed.

Right now, it’s at a robust 3 strikeouts per 9 innings in the majors. That’s another point you have to overlook if you’re clamoring for Noesi to be a starting pitcher for the Yankees right now. Nothing in his statistical profile indicates he deserves that role. Here’s a snapshot of Noesi’s numbers before his regression real bad outing against the Reds:

Here’s how it looks now:

So while everyone was so eager for him to get those innings as a starting pitcher, he had a K/9 of 3 (identical to his BB/9), a .204 BABIP, a strand rate above 90%, a fluky HR/FB ratio especially considering over 45% of his batted balls are in the air, a FIP of 4.02 and an xFIP of 4.88. Of course he has the 1.50 ERA though, so there’s always that. Let’s be clear though- he has just 19 innings of major league experience. It’s anything but certain how he’ll perform going forward from here. Considering that statistical profile though, we shouldn’t act horrified he was passed over for Brian Gordon two weeks ago.

Noesi is the type of prospect you can afford to pass over though. He is one of many pitchers the Yankees have right now that profile as a 4/5 starter at the major league level. At some point, you have to use those guys to plug the gaps with these injuries. As Mark Newman said in an interview with NoMass yesterday:

“In the ideal situation, Noesi would be a starter in Scranton right now and be continuing his development. However, we have to return to that priority of winning in New York. In that regard, we are doing what we have to do at this moment. It may not be what any of us like to do, but it’s what we have to do. Now you can take that in isolation and criticize what we’re doing as detrimental to his development, or you can view it in the context of a bigger picture. You can ask any rabid Yankee fan and I would guess they’d care more about winning in New York than the development of a young pitcher.”

I totally agree. If everyone is healthy, Noesi is down in Scranton getting some more development time. That would be the best case scenario. I think the Yankees have correctly recognized what Noesi is at this point. It’s not likely he’s going to get much better than he already is. Sure, he could work on mixing in his pitches better or maybe ways to attack advanced hitters more effectively. The possibility he takes a huge step forward with more time to develop is pretty low.

Guys like Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos have strict development paths that you have to stick too. This also isn’t the same as the Jesus Montero debate. Catchers take the longest to break into the majors for a reason- Montero has a lot more growth possibility at this point. He’s also 21 and is one of the top young offensive prospects in all of baseball. There is not a similarity there with this Hector Noesi situation.  At some point of course, the collision between prudent development and the “win now” attitude is going to happen. This isn’t one of those collisions. Noesi is not Joba Chamberlain. He’s an expendable arm the Yankees have under team control that profiles as a 4/5 starter or…..a long reliever.

34 thoughts on “The Hector Noesi Debate

  1. The thing is, I’m sure the Yankees will give him the opportunity to start at the big league level. Wouldn’t it be best to wait until that moment suits the team best? Right now, the Yankees are in first place by half a game with the Red Sox and Rays right behind them. If they can pull away in August/Sept in either a division leading role or wild card role then I say lets let it all hang out. Until then, they should do what they think gives them the best chance to win.

    • That part I agree with then. I just must have interpreted it wrong. However, I strongly disagree with the way Scout laid it out in context. Though everyone has the right to their own opinion I guess.

  2. Great post Sean. Though I think it’s sad thatno one was willing to give Noesi a chance to begin with. I think it’s safe to say that Noesi is prefered in the Yankee rotation more so then Gordon will ever be. Even if people THINK he won’t be a good starting pitcher, if people THINK he won’t strike out enough batters, even if people THINK he doesn’t have enough solid off speed pitches, he still deserves a chance. Everyone does and there are no excuses for it.

    • Huh? “He still deserves a chance. Everyone does.” I can’t tell whether this is a tongue-in-cheek comment. Baseball players don’t “deserve” chances. It isn’t a moral calculation; it’s a business decision. Players are assets, and the organization has to judge how best to use them. That is the gist of Newman’s comment and Sean’s spot-on post.

      Fans fall in love with prospects like Noesi because they have a burst of success in the high minors or even in the big leagues. We see so little of them that we lack a basis for making an informed judgment. That’s the job of the scouts. Although they get it wrong from time to time, most often they recognize accurately a player’s limits.

      I would like to see a bit more of Noesi out of the bullpen so I could begin to formulate my own assessment of his ceiling as a relief pitcher. But I do not doubt that he is, for a contending team, just another back-of-the-rotation option as a starter. Or, as I like to call them, FPPs (future Pittsburgh Pirates), guys who could eat innings for losing teams, with a record of 8 wins and 13 losses and an ERA a half-run over the league average. Not what the Yankees need.

      • I’ve got news for you then, if your not willing to give a top 10 prospect a chance because of assumptions, you shouldn’t be working in the baseball world. We gave Ivan Nova a chance didn’t we? Or how about Bartolo Colon? Did he turn out well? Reality is no one though Colon could even make the club at the start of spring training. My point is that no one will know if Hector will be like another Bartolo Colon because no one is willing to give one of your best pitching prospects a chance. The Yankees have already made up there mind about his future and that’s flat out dumb baseball. How about you look at the first three letters of Assume, look in the mirror, and tell yourself the kid doesn’t deserve a chance.

        • “How about you look at the first three letters of Assume, look in the mirror…” The tenor of your comment speaks volumes about your capacity for civil discourse. My error was trying to engage you on a substantive level.

          • (1) Scout – Good to see ya! Long time no chat!

            (2) @TJ Saint – A top-10 prospect for the Yankees doesn’t mean the individual is actually a prospect, it just means that Baseball America considers Noesi one of the Yankees, best prospects not one of the best prospects in baseball overall. It’s a critical distinction as there are literally dozens of guys that make their team’s top-10 list that aren’t true prospects.

          • Scout- That is a common saying that is used so I’m sorry if you took it the wrong way. It was not my intention. And MJ, I agree except I think that Noesi deserves a chance whether or not he’s a top prospect. Baseball America has him ranked as the 6th best prospect behind Andrew Brackmam. In my book he’s a top prospect.

          • “Baseball America has him ranked as the 6th best prospect behind Andrew Brackmam. In my book he’s a top prospect.”

            I’m not trying to be argumentative, I’m just curious: what are you basing your evaluation on? The fact that Baseball America said so?

            Think about the universe of RHP’s in the minors. Do you really see Noesi as one of the top young RHP’s in the game?

            That isn’t to say that the Yankees won’t eventually try to figure out what they’ve got in him. It’s just that we shouldn’t overreact to a brilliant six-inning relief appearance vs. Boston earlier this month. The fact that he was one of the 10 best Yankee prospects according to Baseball America doesn’t actually mean much.

        • “The Yankees have already made up there mind about his future and that’s flat out dumb baseball.”

          When did the Yankees make up their mind about his future? Using him in the bullpen as a rookie hardly means the Yankees have set his future in stone.

          Having said that, just about every scouting report I’ve read on Noesi had him pegged as a mid-rotation starter if he achieved his ceiling. No shame in that but, historically, those guys don’t stick around on the Yankees.

          • That’s my point though. If it’s not set in stone I have no problem with it. I was just a misinterpretation on my part. My bad.

  3. The original post and the discussion point to a problem that the Yankees have as a perennial contender: when and how do you give young players a chance to show what they can do on the major league level? Once again, as in every recent season, the team is locked in a close race for a play-off spot. Every game could be the difference between making the post-season and being on the outside looking in come October.

    If this were Broadway instead of baseball, the answer would be auditions for the starring roles. Here, though, a bad audition could easily result in a game lost in the standings. And to be fair to the young player, he needs multiple chances to show what he can do. Otherwise you fall victim to the aberrations caused by small sample size and bad nerves.

    The Yankee organization, like others, is chock full of right-handed starters who throw in the low 90s and have uneven secondary offerings. besides Noesi and Nova, they have Phelps, Warren, Mitchell, and Stoneburnner (and likely others I’ve overlooked). That isn’t even counting the “elite” righty prospect, Betances. To give them all auditions as major league starters simply isn’t possible for a contending team. Instead the organization makes a calculated decision about who to keep on the farm, refining those secondary pitches (Warren, for now) and who to stick at the back end of the bullpen in the Bronx.

    What usually happens is guys get called up to pitch out of the pen in low-leverage situations. If they show well, they get more important roles, either in close games or as spot starters. (As I recall, this is how Dave Robertson broke in.) If they pitch ineffectively, they stay in the pen and/or shuttle back and forth to Scranton. I think it’s worth noting, too, that they understand the deal — no one promises them a headline role in advance.

    To go back to my earlier point, “fairness” is a luxury open to non-contending teams. Any good prospect can have his mound audition of, say, three or four starts, perhaps more. On one level, we all would love to see the Noesis and Warrens of this world get that kind of chance. But if that means rooting for the Pirates, I’ll take a pass.

    • I like the analogy Scout. As long as Noesi is given a chance in the next three years I have no problem with it. I just don’t see Noesi being much worse than Gordon. Though I think the club should cross whatever stepping stones it takes for another championship.

      • The reason Gordon was given the chance over Noesi is because if he struggled he could simply be cut and you move on. If Noesi struggled he would’ve had to been sent down because of the innings he pitched, and he wouldn’t have been available out of the pen. Noesi has proven to be an asset out of the pen with the injuries we have, they didn’t want to risk that on a gamble of what he would do in the rotation. If we still had Joba and Soriano he probably would’ve been the one used over Gordon.

  4. General question : how is it that NoMaas is able to snag these types of interviews? Does anyone know? It’s pretty incredible that a blog can get that kind of access.

    • Perhaps it’s best not to ask what John Kreese had to do for (or to) Mark Newman to secure the answers. :-)

      • Haha it’s really incredible. I also think RAB does some similar things like talk shows, but it’s really neat to see how blogs are able to do that.

  5. I agree with the main point, which seems to be that Noesi isn’t the sort of prospect that merits such serious concern. At his very best, I’m not certain that he’d be a tremendous upgrade over either Garcia or Nova. He actually profiles fairly similarly to Garcia (perhaps peak Garcia), but I don’t see him hitting that sort of level anytime soon … and therein lies the issue.

    The Yankees won’t know what sort of commodity they have in Noesi if he doesn’t receive the innings to showcase his stuff. At the very least, I’d argue that the low-leverage innings given to non-factors like Buddy Carlyle and Amauri Sanit should be given to Noesi. True, that would keep him in the bullpen, in low-leverage situations, and far from showing what he can do as a starter – but at least it keeps his arm loose and shows what he can do with some sort of regular usage.

    My biggest issue, however, lay mostly in the fact that the Yankees brought Gordon on-board for a couple of starts. Noesi had the requisite rest and he’d performed ably in the Majors up to that point, and it seemed perfect to give him that start. It’s difficult to draw much of a conclusion from such sporadic usage in the Majors … but he’d been dynamite in the minors for a few years and he looked solid in a few innings. That’s enough to merit a start – particularly when the competition is a journeyman minor leaguer with lesser stuff.

    That also sort of plays into Olney’s point last week – the Yankees just don’t appear to trust their prospects. They’ve sought out journeyman after journeyman when they could at least toss some innings at Noesi … is it really that likely that he’d be worse than Sanit or Carlyle or Gordon? In the long run, Olney also pointed out that rival executives were unsure of Yankees prospects, given their handling of Montero and several young arms this season … and that has to be considered as well.

    • “He actually profiles fairly similarly to Garcia (perhaps peak Garcia)…”

      In fairness to Garcia, Noesi would have a long way to go to be “peak Garcia.”

      From 1999-2006, Garcia averaged 205 IP with a 113 ERA+ and 6.6 K/9 which equated to roughly 3.3 bWAR per season. If Noesi ends up being a replica of Garcia’s peak years that would be quite a coup by the Yankee scouting department. It’s unlikely that this will be the result, however.

      • I did say “I don’t see him hitting that level anytime soon” – I don’t have any delusions about Noesi’s current effectiveness. He, like Garcia, is a four-pitch pitcher with solid command and no true ‘plus’ offering. He’s built similarly and has a track-record of durability (like Garcia at his best).

        And for what it’s worth … is saying that Noesi could post a slightly above-league-average ERA really that much of a stretch? In discussing ceilings, that’s actually rather tame.

        • “is saying that Noesi could post a slightly above-league-average ERA really that much of a stretch? In discussing ceilings, that’s actually rather tame.”

          If a pitcher’s ceiling is that of a mid-rotation starter then, yes, it’s probably a stretch to say that Noesi could post a peak ERA+ of 113. How often do players hit their ceilings?

          Assuming Noesi settles in at a few ticks below his ceiling and simply becomes a league-average starter — which would be just fine with me, incidentally — then the contrast between an ERA+ of 113 and something closer to 100 would be apparent.

          Garcia was the 61st-rated prospect by Baseball America back in 1999. If nothing else, it shows that Garcia was perceived to have a higher ceiling than Noesi.

          • I’m not claiming that Noesi will hit his ceiling, nor am I saying he’ll get particularly close. I’m merely stating that his ceiling is that of a mid-rotation starter, and I believe that at his best he could look like Freddy Garcia.

            Garcia, for his career, posted FIP numbers that were just about in-line with league-average. I could see Noesi doing that at his best. Not for his career, not for a decade, not necessarily for five – but at his very best. At Garcia’s peak, he was about ten-percent better than league-average in terms of FIP – and I could see Noesi tossing out a season or two at that level.

            I’m not treating Noesi like a top prospect. I’m not claiming that he’ll be a revelation. I’m not claiming that he’s going to reach his ceiling. Rather, I’m saying that I perceive his ceiling to be a mid-rotation starter with a couple of strong seasons sprinkled in.

            I’m also not sure how Garcia’s prospect status is applicable here. All prospect projections are a crapshoot, and BA isn’t ubiquitous or omnipotent. Though, I suppose it is worth noting that BA claimed he could be a mid-rotation starter … and plenty of three or four starters have posted ERA+ and FIP- numbers ten-plus percent better than league average.

          • “I’m also not sure how Garcia’s prospect status is applicable here. All prospect projections are a crapshoot, and BA isn’t ubiquitous or omnipotent.”

            Agree completely. I was just pointing out that Garcia’s “pedigree” was considered better than Noesi’s and that clearly plays a role in what a player’s ceiling is perceived to be.

            I agree that Noesi could have one or two years (or more) that might touch Garcia’s average peak years. To be clear, I never said he couldn’t. My only point was that the Garcia of today — a four-pitch soft-tosser and a veteran gamer — shouldn’t make us forget that he had some really strong years and a solid eight-year run.

          • I agree completely that Garcia’s pedigree is better, and I remember him performing wonderfully for the Mariners at the turn of the century. Trading Randy Johnson wasn’t eash for the M’s … but they received one of the better returns that I can think of for a pitcher of that caliber – though, they may have even bettered that with the acquisition of Smoak (who has all the tools to be a stud first baseman).

            I don’t entirely remember Garcia having tremendous velocity – I more so remember him thriving on command and movement. I can find anecdotal evidence of him sitting in the low-90s, but nothing more specific (though, FG has him averaging 93 MPH pre-injuries).

        • Peak Garcia also wasn’t the Garcia you see before us now. He once had an electric fastball that was a plus pitch, arm troubles have robbed him of that. Noesi doesn’t have the stuff Garcia once did.

  6. Everyone seems to be making a very big deal about the 10.1 IP that Brian Gordon has pitched, arguing that those innings should’ve gone to Noesi.

    So if Noesi had 30 innings to his credit — the 19.2 he has and the 10.1 that have gone to Gordon — would everyone feel better? Would everyone feel like the Yankees aren’t mismanaging or “wasting” this young arm?

    Let’s not fly off the handle. If Noesi is still a mop-up man a year from now, then we can worry about how he’s being handled poorly. Right now, not so much.

    • I don’t really think anyone is flying off the handle. Rather, it’s just … odd that the team would find an external option to fill a hole that could have been ably filled by a candidate that was already on the 25-man roster. The additional system depth Gordon adds is nice, I suppose – but pitchers of his caliber all but grow on trees, and are routinely available for peanuts.

      • I guess my question is: what difference does it make that the Yankees went outside the organization instead of simply turning to Noesi?

        Again, I’m just not seeing the big deal. Instead of potentially using Noesi as cannon-fodder in his first taste of the big leagues the Yanks are using him in low-leverage situations in order to get him acclimated and to break him in slowly.

        Hardly seems like anything to be concerned about.

        • The Yankees had given Noesi some low-leverage appearances prior to that opportunity to start, and he’d done fairly well for the most part. There’s certainly merit to dipping one’s toes into the pool before jumping in … but one will inevitably need to make it into the pool.

          My issue is simply that it did not make sense to go outside of the organization for a spot-start when there was a viable option on the 25-man roster. There exists a consensus that this club has a fine farm system, and most every outlet believes that Noesi is a fine prospect that could fill-in at the back of the rotation. There’s also no reason to believe that Gordon would have performed better than Noesi.

          The Yankees have been very slow with moving their prospects this season, and the lack of faith they seem to have is puzzling on two levels. First, it makes me wonder why they weren’t quicker to make a deal that could have benefited the club – Montero, for example, was much more attractive from July through March than he is now. And second, as I referenced above, potential trade partners are leery of Yankees prospects due to the Yankees lack of trust … it would be difficult to sell a club on a pitcher that the Yankees had less faith in than a 30-something journeyman with no Major League starts.

          • “My issue is simply that it did not make sense to go outside of the organization for a spot-start when there was a viable option on the 25-man roster.”

            Based on the low level of cost undertaken to add Gordon, I really don’t see how “it did not make sense to go outside of the organization.” Had the Yankees spent a small fortune to acquire someone of questionable talent then perhaps you’d have a point. But bringing in a minor leaguer and letting him take a start over another minor leaguer just doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. Again, it’s not as if Noesi has been trumped in the pecking order after a year or more of establishment in the big leagues. A guy with under 20 MLB innings doesn’t have a place in the pecking order to speak of.

            “First, it makes me wonder why they weren’t quicker to make a deal that could have benefited the club – Montero, for example, was much more attractive from July through March than he is now.”

            The Yankees did try to trade Montero. Twice, in fact. After the second attempt fell through (last July 9th, for Cliff Lee), who else did you want the Yankees to acquire with the Montero trade chip?

            Potential trade partners can be leery all they want but I have seen no evidence to suggest that the Yankees can’t get deals done. So that leeriness you refer to may be anecdotal or what is oft-repeated by the mainstream media but, to date, I can’t recall a single instance where the Yankees couldn’t make a deal beacuse the other team didn’t trust the Yankees. After all, every trade counterparty sends their own scouts to look at prospects. It’s not as if they’re relying on the Yankees’ own opinion of their players.

          • Perhaps I’m making it appear as if I’m tremendously upset over Noesi’s being passed over in the pecking order – I’m not. I just find it odd that the Yankees would do so in favor of a journeyman of Gordon’s caliber. I’ve always been a proponent of giving the team’s prospects a shot, and I felt that that was the perfect opportunity to see what Noesi was made of.

            With Montero, I would have liked to see the Yankees snag either Haren or Greinke (though, the Haren hang-up appears to have been Joba Chamberlain). I obviously don’t know how in-depth those trade conversations went … but it’s something that I’ve wondered about.

            As for the trade partners, that’s another topic that I really don’t have too much insight with. Teams should and do scout other organization’s prospects, particularly where trades are concerned … but I could imagine a situation where a team would be leery of someone like Jesus Montero for his being passed over for promotions at opportune times and being benched for lack of effort (and so forth).

  7. Andy Pettite profiled as a mid-rotation guy back in ’95. It’s a good thing he wasn’t used a a long reliever.

    • I can find 20 examples of pitchers who were suppose to be top of the rotations guys that flamed out. It goes both ways, one example doesn’t change that.