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.