Hector Noesi Impressive – Rest of Team Less So
Back in January, Dave wrote about Hector Noesi and his surprising velocity. Dave’s article cited his scouting report of an 89-93 MPH fastball (a pretty big range, really) with the ability to touch 96 (making the range even bigger), and also mentioned that Noesi was able to sustain good velocity in his longer outings with the Yankees. Then came reports from the Dominican Winter League that Noesi was touching 98 MPH, despite working as a starting pitcher. Needless to say, I was looking forward to Hector Noesi’s first start this pre-season. In Peoria. With Pitch FX.
Let’s be clear – this was a two-inning start in early March. It’s tempting to over-analyze the 30-odd pitches because they’re all we’ve got so far and because it’s March and all the M’s have done is play pretend games against Oakland’s minor leaguers. This isn’t intended to settle the question about Noesi’s stuff – it’s just a snapshot. The fact that his outing was so short may inflate his velo, though to be fair, the fact that it’s his first spring training start might depress it. I have no idea. However, what Pitch FX showed was a guy averaging 94-95 on two different fastballs. In the first inning, he hit 96.6 MPH against Seth Smith.
He didn’t allow any hits, but he had poor command, which led to two walks. Many of his “misses” weren’t exactly borderline; he threw four consecutive balls- none of which were close – to Michael Taylor/Anthony Recker before straightening things out. Still, Noesi’s been a command guy in the minors, with walk rates under 5% until 2011. If he’s now got an above average fastball (and perhaps an above average sinker/two-seamer), then he really changes the nature of the trade. If they got an MLB-ready arm that tops out as a middle-reliever, then the loss of Jose Campos might sting a bit. But if Noesi can maintain this (or maintain this velocity without the command issues), he’s an intriguing starting pitching prospect who could begin the year with the big club. If he’s consistently 93-95 in the rotation, he’s not a swing-man/#5 starter, he’s got a shot to be the #3 starter by July.
Unfortunately, the rest of the game didn’t follow suit. Hong-Chih Kuo – trying to make the team as the second lefty in the bullpen behind George Sherrill – had a forgettable inning, throwing about 30 pitches with velocity below his career average and giving up three hits including a HR. The line-up. which many noted looks similar to what the M’s might roll out on opening day, managed just two hits in the first six innings (one of them, a HR, came off the one guy everyone agree will NOT be in the opening day line-up – Carlos Peguero). Michael Saunders didn’t do much, and Franklin Gutierrez is still going to miss a month or more.
Despite the poor hitting, Noesi’s performance offered something for optimists to grab on to. Despite the presence of Jesus Montero (who’s fine, despite being held out today – he should be in the line-up against San Diego tomorrow), the M’s don’t project as a league-average offense. They’re going to need to maintain their sterling runs-allowed if they want to avoid another run at 100 losses, and they’re going to need to do so without Michael Pineda. Noesi offers one of the best opportunities on the roster to blow the PECOTA/CAIRO/Gut-feeling projection out of the water.
Other stories today:
* In 2011, the M’s saw one of their best players, CF Franklin Gutierrez, felled by a mysterious illness that led to a horrific 2011 batting line. Well, the Mets may be in the same boat. Adam Rubin of ESPN is reporting that 1B Ike Davis of the Mets may have Valley Fever, the strange fungal infection that stopped Conor Jackson’s career in its tracks and, for the old-timers out there, basically ended Barry Bonnell’s career as soon as he joined the M’s. Jackson said it’s like “mono on steroids” and the Mets are trying to reduce Davis’ workload and make sure he’s well-rested. But this is a player who relied on power to excel, and the examples of Bonnell and Jackson aren’t exactly encouraging. Davis is a great talent, and having just seen Gutierrez attempt to play through IBS in 2011, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Here’s hoping Davis is able to make a full recovery. And, since I’m already discussing crappy luck, that Gutierrez’s musculature stops tearing so easily.
* Yoenis Cespedes’ deal with the Oakland Athletics became official after the Cuban CF passed a physical today. The A’s don’t have to think hard about a 40-man roster move, as the injury to starting 3B Scott Sizemore makes it easy – Sizemore will go to the 60-man and will likely miss the entirety of the 2012 season and Cespedes will take his spot on the roster.