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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.