29 Aug 2011
Coming into 2011, it was generally accepted that the Yankees had two “A level” pitching prospects in Manny Banuelos and Delin Betances and four “B level” prospects, Phelps, Warren, Noesi and Brackman. While it is obvious that all of these guys wouldn’t end up in the starting rotation, developing them towards that goal was the best move for the long term health of the franchise.
As we enter the last week of August, we can see the Yankees mostly followed that plan. Betances and Banuelos were started in AA and have recently been promoted to AAA. Phelps and Warren have become cogs of the AAA rotation while Brackman’s poor performance led to his removal from the rotation. He is now part of the bullpen and pitching much much better since making a mechanical adjustment. Hector Noesi is the lone exception. He has languished in the majors as the “long guy” in the bullpen and will probably get sent back to Scranton today to make room for Freddy Garcia.
Last season, Noesi threw 160 innings between A, AA and AAA and compiled a 3.20 ERA. Baseball American rated him as the 7th-best prospect in the system and also tagged him as the guy with the best control. Many of the same things said about Ivan Nova in 2010, were repeated about Noesi in 2011. Yet to date, Noesi has thrown a total of 68 innings between AAA and the bigs, probably shattering any chance that he can be an effective starter in 2012.
The Yankees would probably defend their usage of Noesi by saying they needed a long guy in the bullpen and he was the best candidate. But, is that really true? Lance Pendleton could have filled that role. Brian Gordon, who the Yankees chose to make two starts in June before selling him to Japan, could have filled that role. George Kontos, a former prospect who put it all together this year, could have filled that role. The 12th guy in the bullpen is a luxury and not a necessity and I don’t understand why the Yankees put Noesi in a role where he essentially lost a year of development.
Hopefully, it won’t matter in the future. Betances and Banuelos will step forward and fill the rotation. Hughes and Nova will continue to pitch well, leaving the Yankees with four homegrown starters and Sabathia. But even if that happens, the Yankees wasted an asset in Noesi. If he had succeeded in AAA this year as a starter he would have been a valuable trading chip or another name for organizational depth. But, the Yankees chose instead to let him languish on the bench, a strange choice for their present and their future.