Hector Noesi was the flimsy prize at the bottom of the Crackerjack package. We saw him mentioned a couple times, but it didn't matter at that moment. And then time passed, and we forgot about him.
Don't look now, but Noesi is in the running to secure a spot in the starting rotation as spring training Cactus League games begin. Originally subjugated to "toss-in" status, Noesi could find himself being praised as the steal of the Pineda and Montero trade.
It's not that Noesi has crazy good stuff, or that he can be the ace in the Seattle rotation. In fact, his ceiling is really quite low for a 25-year-old prospect.
But with Noesi, we're almost playing moneyball here. We're trying to find the undervalued and unsexy players, and make them consistent contributors to the Mariners' success. Just like Jason Vargas, Russell Branyan and other players brought in by Jack Zduriencik.
You see, when the M's lost Pineda, they created a hole in the pitching rotation to plug up another in the offense. So if Noesi can replace a good chunk of what they forfeited pitching-wise, the Mariners will be giggling with glee.
The Mariners can make this work with Noesi if he can get the job done. And signs are that he very well could.
Noesi's specialty is his consistency in pitch delivery and command of his pitches, which means that he can provide reliable outings as a starter. When you combine his skill set with a pitcher's ballpark like Safeco Field, you find a starter who won't blow anyone away or carry the team on his back, but will go six solid innings and give you the chance for victory.
How do you think Noesi will do in 2012?
Kind of like former-Mariner Doug Fister, although front office executives would compare his ability more closely to Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Daniel Hudson. Hudson, also a young low-upside starter who mainly relies on a plus-fastball for success, went 16-12 last season with a 3.49 ERA and 169 strikeouts.
Nowadays, baseball scouts push the Noesi-types to the corner while drooling over raw-upside prospects. But when you look at it, the low-ceiling starters quietly amass respectable numbers under the radar. They're the guys with higher WAR's (Wins Above Replacement) than most would expect.
Hector Noesi won't be the next Michael Pineda, but if anything I hope fans now respect his ability to pitch effectively. He was mentioned as a candidate for the Yankees rotation at the end of last season, and prepared through Dominican league Winterball with the mindset of being a starter.
Noesi should slot in as the fourth or fifth man in the M's rotation unless he implodes in spring training. If that happens, he will already be on his way to proving a pleasantly useful piece in the January blockbuster deal.