Developed primarily as a starter during his time in the Yankees’ minor league system, Hector Noesi rather quietly had a very good rookie campaign out of the bullpen for the big league club in 2011.
He finished the season with a 4.47 ERA/4.09 FIP/4.02 xFIP, 7.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9 and a 41% GB% over 56.1 innings, most of which came in relief. However, his numbers look even shinier if you remove the two innings-limited spot starts he made at the end of the season — 4.01 ERA/3.88 FIP/3.91 xFIP, 7.3 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9.
While the preseason projection systems were projecting him as a starter, he still outperformed his average preseason projection of a 4.84 ERA/4.91 FIP, 6.6 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and 1.4 HR/9 rather handily, with the exception of the free passes.
Though Noesi ended up being a valuable part of the bullpen, if the team does end up holding a competition for the back end of the rotation next spring, Noesi will certainly be in the mix, especially seeing as how he’s currently fifth on the Yankees’ starting pitching depth chart after CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes.
Noesi’s very likely not a 4.00-ERA pitcher as a starter, but he performed well enough that it doesn’t seem out of the question that he could provide perhaps a slightly below-league-average-ish 4.25-4.50 ERA if given a healthy number of starts.
Let’s take a look at what Hector’s done since being promoted to Charleston at the beginning of 2009:
Low walk rates have been the name of Noesi’s game for most of his career, although his BB/9 finally spiked above 3.0 this season, as he faced superior competition at AAA and at the MLB level. He’s not an exceptional strikeout pitcher, though he has more of a track record of punching guys out than Ivan Nova, and Noesi will need to strike a bare minimum of 6 per nine out as a starter if he’s going to live at around a 40% GB%. Innings shouldn’t be a major obstacle for Noesi; he logged a career-high 160.1 across three levels in 2010, and 81 last season, so I’d think he’d be able to throw at least 150 should he make himself part of the rotation conversation.
Here’s a breakdown of Noesi’s stuff, per the data at TexasLeaguers.com:
According to the TexasLeaguers data Noesi has five pitches — a four-seam and two-seam fastball, slider, curve and changeup, though like Ivan Nova, it’s possible PITCHf/x is mis-classifying some four-seamers as two-seamers, as I haven’t been able to find a scouting report that says he throws a sinker (though it’s also possible that he added one). His four-seamer is almost exactly league-average as far as horizontal and vertical break goes, although he throws it one mile per hour faster than average, which may have helped contribute to his above-average whiff rate. The slider and curve both wound up generating above-average whiff rates, although prior to this season neither were thought to be even average big league pitches. His stuff almost certainly played up better in the ‘pen, although given that Noesi was frequently used as a long man, he may not have been completely emptying the tank each time out. Until we see more, the jury appears to still be out on whether his breaking pitches will end up being assets.
And here’s Noesi’s batted ball platoon data, courtesy of JoeLefkowitz.com:
It’d be great to see Noesi establish the curve and slider as legit secondary pitches, as his slider was a big swing-and-miss pitch against righties, while the curve helped combat lefties and also generated impressive ground-ball rates.
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