Most of you probably know by now that the closest pitching prospects the Yankees have to the majors are David Phelps and Hector Noesi. No, they’re not projected as top of the rotation starters. Back end of the rotation starters are still valuable though which should be evident if you’ve checked out the 2011 rotation for the Yankees at this point. So while they don’t have the upside of Banuelos or Betances, I figured we could take a look at two guys who could wind up contributing in 2011.
Both Phelps and Noesi are something close to control specialists. They both throw in the low to mid 90s. Phelps has a good two-seam fastball as well as a curve while Noesi has a good changeup and solid curveball. Both pitchers throw sliders but neither does with much success.
For most of his career, Phelps managed to fly under the radar. Drafted in 2008 out of Notre Dame, Phelps hit the ground running and has never really slowed down. In 3 minor league seasons across 5 levels Phelps has never posted a FIP higher than 3.41 or walked more than 2.3 batters per 9 innings. He’s been without a major injury, probably because his delivery has always been smooth. He’s been cruising since his professional debut.
Hector Noesi has had a bit of a longer path. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2005, Noesi missed a good portion of 2007 with Tommy John surgery and a banned substances suspension. After rehabbing in 2008, Noesi found success in 2009 posting a 2.25 FIP across 2 levels and carried that into 2010.
Phelps and Noesi both spent a majority of their 2010 seasons in AA Trenton. While Noesi popped up on a lot of national radars entering the season, Phelps was largely ignored. This is pretty understandable since scouts pay more attention to what a pitcher throws and how hard rather than the results in the minors. Still though, the 2010 numbers were pretty rosy for both Phelps and Noesi. I used Baseball America’s list of their top Eastern League prospects to highlight just how well they did. If you’re under the impression I’m comparing either of their potentials to the likes of Kyle Drabek or Zach Britton, please work on your reading comprehension and/or kill yourself.
Click to enlarge the chart.
David Phelps was not included in this list but I added him in here anyhow. The list is sorted by tRA+, which is adjusted for park, defense and league adjusted like OPS+ or ERA+. Anything over 100 is above average and anything under 100 is below average. All the pitchers on this list had at least 50 IP in the Eastern league which is a small sample, but it’s the minors, guys move around a bit. Obviously Phelps benefited from a pretty good BABIP but these results aren’t wildly divergent from his career numbers. Trenton is a pretty good pitchers park, even for the friendly Eastern League and that’s probably a big part of the difference between the FIPs and tRAs for Brackman, Phelps and Noesi. Another thing to observe is Phelps low HR/9. He does have that nice two-seam fastball to keep the ball on the ground but his GB% was actually down from last year and he had a fluky low HR/BIA rate (Home runs per ball in air). Hector Noesi on the other hand has always been a fly ball pitcher (fun times ahead in New Yankee Stadium!) and his batted ball distribution isn’t very different from his career rates.
Phelps and Noesi obviously benefited from their control quite a bit in 2010 and the results were nice. However in the big picture, this doesn’t mean very much. Noesi and Phelps don’t have the upside of these other prospects (for the 6,000th time). Back end of the rotation starters are pretty valuable though and if thinking of Sergio Mitre taking the mound in the bottom of the first makes you cry at night, well these are your in house alternatives. I’m sure both will be looked at pretty closely in spring training. Noesi and Phelps both saw some time in AAA last year but it would probably behoove them to return there in order to keep working. Minor league results are nice but will good fastball command and soft secondary offerings cut it in the AL East? Probably not. Hopefully both pitchers will continue to improve and we’ll be seeing them in the Bronx sometime soon.
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