Can Hector Noesi replace Michael Pineda’s production?

Hector Noesi looks like Julian Tavarez. That is all.

While Michael Pineda and Jesus Montero have received all the ink in regards to the trade that sent them, Jose Campos, and Hector Noesi across country (as of next year, I’m pretty sure they are all in other countries right now), Noesi has seemed to be the forgotten entity here. Obviously Pineda and Montero are the two main pieces of the trade, and no doubt, some future projections think that Campos could be a very special pitcher too.

But when it comes to replacing Pineda, the Mariners may have found an adequate candidate in Noesi, a guy who has been regarded as a veritable throw-in in some circles.

The Yankees signed Noesi in 2004 when he was 17 years old. In 2007 he was suspended for 50 games for violating minor league baseball’s drug policy. It wasn’t for PEDs. We don’t know what it was for. If it wasn’t for PEDs, there is a philosophical likelihood that Noesi’s productivity wasn’t affected positively by his drug use. Is it a character concern? No question. Is it one that we should be worried about when Noesi eventually toes the rubber in the middle of Safeco Field? Probably not.

He had Tommy John surgery in mid-2008, and spent the rest of the 2008 season, and much of the 2009 season recovering from the surgery. In 2010 Noesi posted an outstanding 5.46 K/BB while skyrocketing through the minors, going from Advanced A ball to Triple A in a single season. His K/9 dropped below seven for the first time in Triple A, and remained there last year before he was called up to the Yankees. Also last year, his BB/9 was above three for the first time in his career.

Noesi is a guy with a mid-90s fastball, a good changeup, a slider that generates whiffs from righties, and a curveball that adds another option, even though it probably isn’t a great one. One of Noesi’s major advantages in Safeco, if not the kind of fastball that generates a ton of whiffs, is that he has an effective changeup. One of the major knocks on Pineda is that he didn’t have a second pitch to throw to lefties, as his second best pitch, the slider, has the most severe righty-lefty split when it comes to different pitch types. And while Pineda hasn’t shown this in his results, its possible that his process may lead to results that regress quickly.

Philisophically it seems like the Mariners and Yankees both acquired top players in Pineda and Montero who figure to perform less well in their new home than they would have if they’d remained with their original team. Noesi may be different. His changeup should endear himself to the Mariner rotation, and his 10.3 percent whiff rate against lefties is much better than the 4.1 percent rate that Pineda generated.

We are dealing with inherently small sample sizes. Pineda has pitched one year in the MLB, and Noesi has pitched only part of a year. Noesi threw 78 changeups to lefties in 2011, and Pineda threw 73. Michael Pineda faced 357 lefties, Noesi pitched 117 lefties. Noesi threw five more changeups to lefties than Pineda did, and Noesi has a curveball, while not as good overall as his changeup, that was even more effective against lefties than his already effective changeup (15.3 percent whiff rate).

Going into 2009 Noesi and Pineda were pretty similar prospects. They’d both had elbow injuries. They’d both been pitchers who racked up good strikeout and walk numbers using plus-fastballs. And while Noesi doesn’t throw as hard as Pineda, according to Pitch F/X his average four-seamer was only 1.0 mph slower than Pineda’s, and according to Pitch F/X Noesi also threw a two-seamer.

The idea that Safeco Field is hard on righties is a fallacy. It doesn’t hide pitcher deficiencies like it does for left-handers, but it still rewards right-handed pitchers who have a repertoire of pitchers that can be effective against lefties (Felix Hernandez, Doug Fister, Blake Beavan).

Many pitchers seem to find their groove in Safeco Field, where pitchers are rewarded for throwing strikes, and especially throwing high in the strike zone (where Pineda has had a lot of success). Noesi may not be as fun to watch as Pineda, but he could be very close to as effective as Pineda.

A huge hat tip to Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues who had a great wikipedia-esque piece on Noesi here, which I read on Wednesday, when Wikipedia was protesting internet censorship. 

What do you think that Hector Noesi will become?

  • Mid-rotation starter (60%, 304 Votes)
  • Bottom of the rotation starter (29%, 146 Votes)
  • Swingman/Reliever (7%, 34 Votes)
  • Top of the rotation starter (4%, 19 Votes)
  • Literally nothing. (0%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 510

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  • Anonymous

    Dave Cameron gave Hector Noesi a decent write-up too. Like just about everyone I was impressed by Campos and his potential but I think Noesi is ready now and that fact alone adds to his value. We have plenty of potential starters, good ones, in the pipeline but with Pineda gone we needed some like Noesi and Iwakuma to bridge the gap until the farm hands show they are indeed ready to contribute. I like having Vargas back and Beaven is a bit better in my eyes than I think many M’s fans give him credit for. Additionally when the farm hands show they are ready Noesi, if he shows well in Safeco as he should, then becomes a nice bit of trade bait towards a missing piece, like a 3B from the Nationals.

    • Anonymous

      I have a hard time seeing the Mariners in on a Zimmerman trade, lol. He’s very good though, and If they did trade for him I’ve be a very happy Mariners fan.

      • Anonymous

        I was thinking of Rendon, now that they are signing Zimmerman to a multi-year contract. There was some talk that Rendon might be moved to 2B. If they need a 2B then Seagar and a back end starter and maybe an A ball piece might work. Probably not until this season is over, and probably not at all. Just an idea.

      • Anonymous

        Rendon played some 2b in college, and Ryan Zimmerman has been pretty reluctant to extend in the past. I think that Rendon will debut this year, he’s a really good prospect. He’s Ackley-esque.

      • Anonymous

        Washington and the M’s probably won’t do any dealing until this coming season is over, they both need a better idea of what they actually have and what they need to go forward. I saw some reference somewhere recently to the rumor that they were talking about a multi-year extension for Zimmerman. Who knows how good a rumor is? Seagar is another under-appreciated asset in my eyes and in the opinion of the college coach of he and Ackley I read in a Carolina newspaper piece. We shall see this year, I’m really looking forward to this season.

      • Anonymous

        Me too! it’s crazy how a trade like this makes next season so much more fun to think about. Zimmerman has been rumored to be negotiating an extension, you are right. It took a couple years to negotiate his last one. I love the idea of bringing any of those guys in, i think you’re talking two of the remaining top pitchers to get them though.

  • Rainoutsportscards

    Hi Casey,

    Excellent Noesi article! The most striking part of it was the comp of changeups to lefties between him and Pineda. That’ll be a huge thing in Safeco Field as it should mitigate damage that lefties can do against him in that park. I’d love to see him be able to spin the curve and slider with more consistency, but having a change that comes in @ 81-83 for strikes is much more important than either off-speed pitch. Further development of one of those could make him a real solid #3.

    • Anonymous

      I agree!

  • Pharryn

    I’m a Yankee fan, watched numerous of Noesi’s games and count myself as one of his fans. However, I would caution any that consider him anymore than a #4 starter. His best stuff was out of the pen, where his FB would generate significant movement. Enjoy him, he’ll probably be a part of your team for years, but don’t expect too much.

    • Anonymous

      That may be true Pharryn and I appreciate your comment. One of the major things in his favor are that Safeco should mitigate some of his weaknesses while highlighting some of his strengths.

  • Jonathan Gallo

    Big Yankee fan. Nosei was always a favorite of mine. I think his long term upside is a better Ivan Nova.

    • Anonymous

      After scouring their stats and scouting reports I agree Jonathan. I may write piece to that effect later. A lot of Mariners fans who are against the trade wanted Nova. I appreciate the comment.