Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I Like Nick (Noonan)

Besides all the stuff I have posted on Nick Noonan, the Giants 4th pick and 32nd overall pick in the 2007 draft, I found an article in his local newspaper, San Diego Union Tribune, and it goes in depth on him so I thought I should share that with everyone.

First, it notes that Baseball America named him as the 41st best prospect, so I don't know why some people said that the selection of Noonan was a cheap play, the talent difference is not that great 9 spots ahead in the draft, even this early into the draft. In any case, as I noted in the previous post, he signed for about what the 32nd pick normally gets, maybe slightly higher.

And while he is noted in most accounts as bound for 2B eventually, hence the comparison to Utley we've seen, he wants to be a SS. That is where he has spent most of his career. And I think anybody who plays SS will want to play SS, if he doesn't I would have to wonder about his mindset. That's a premium position and you should want to stay there and work hard to keep it. But hopefully he's more understanding once he becomes a pro and, if he should prove to not be a SS, he will accept it and move on.

There is some interesting info in this article, from scouts interviewed. One NL scout had a lot to say about Noonan:
  • "Every time you watch him, you get a better appreciation for him and what he can do. He does everything smooth and easy."
  • He considers Nick one of the top high school hitters in Southern California: "I've seen him hit 95 MPH like it's 75 MPH. He has a quick bat and exceptional knowledge of the strike zone. Nothing fazes him. He's just a cool customer - a true baseball player."
The article notes also that the "scouting community seems willing to let Noonan try his hand at shortstop out of the chute. The knock against Noonan is that some question his arm strength, which could change his defensive focus to that of a second baseman. He has been compared to Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts..."

An AL scout had this to say:
  • "Noonan has the ability to play a premier position. His profile is what the scouting community is looking for. He has a nice, pure left-handed swing. He's a major league base runner with a major league arm."
Some have noted that his stats might be inflated because he plays in a small-school league facing less-skilled pitching. However, he has played well against other top prospects in showcases he has played in: the 2006 Area Code games in Long Beach; last August's Aflac All-American Classic at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

The article also noted his level headed attitude which helps him out as the team leader. He doesn't get caught up in himself like others of his caliber. A teammate and longtime friend, Greg LaBarre noted, "Given his position and the (publicity) he's receiving he could be stuck up if he wanted to, but he's not like that at all. He's just a genuine guy. Playing alongside him you'd never even know that he's going to be drafted. He's just real humble and goes about his business quietly. Before the game the scouts are lined up behind the backstop and we joke around teasing Nick, 'There are a lot of dads here today.' Even with all those scouts watching his every move I don't think it makes him nervous. He's a unique character, a strong well-grounded individual."

Apparently the Giants might have lucked out in selecting Noonan, though part of it was due to players who could have been drafted earlier fell to the Tigers and Yankees. According to Noonan in the article, the teams who were the most serious before the draft was the Padres, Yankees, Tigers, Twins, and Giants. That's basically the list of teams picking late in the first round. And a lot of teams had expressed interest in him beyond that list.

My Thoughts

Overall, as I have noted in previous posts, draft picks are pretty much needles in the haystack unless you are picking in the first few picks overall in the draft. So who knows how good Noonan can be, or whether he will ever make the majors. Despite the seriousness that a lot of people place in analyzing prospects in the draft, for the majority of prospects after, say, the 15th pick overall (5th pick overall? I'll have to check my data) you don't really know what you got until they sign and play professionally. That's where the wheat starts to separate from the chaff. I learned this the hard way when the Giants drafted Royce Clayton and he was this homerun hitting high school SS and I was drooling but, as history has unfolded, not so much.

For me, since I don't know how to break down video (I've been relying on Carlos Gomez's great work on The Hardball Times and his The Bullpen Mechanics column at the Baseball Factory), the best I can do is try to read through the tea leaves regarding the prospects makeup and reporting what other people have written about them. Since there's rarely that much written, it makes reporting my only avenue usually.

But this article has a lot of info in it, so I'm going to try. I didn't write about this above, but the author asked Noonan about Baseball America saying he's the 41st best prospect and he gave a very level headed, detailed, and thoughtful response about how that doesn't mean anything. That aligns with what his friend said about him being level-headed.

Another thing I didn't mention above was his response about scouts crowding to see him at his games, again he gave a great response: "I've played so many games in front of scouts, and I realize I can't really control what they think. Just hustling and being consistent with my abilities is all that I can do. I think having some scouts here to watch us has brought us up to another level of play." Notice how he said the scouts were here to watch "us" when they were really there to see him, and he said that it raised their level of play. That fits in with what his friend said about him being a genuine guy, about how humble he is. This, for me, makes the friend's comments more real and not just fluff a friend might say, about what he said about Noonan being a unique character, a strong well-grounded individual, a genuine guy, a humble guy.

Plus he's already realized that he can't control what they think, so he focuses on what he can control, his hustle and being consistent. How important is that for any ballplayer to realize? Sometimes it is little things like this that makes the difference between a major leaguer and a minor leaguer. That's something that Barry Zito is struggling with as he spirals downward in performance, that seems to affect a lot of players who sign big contracts. This bodes well for Noonan not getting the deer in the headlights syndrome at any point and just playing to his abilities, so he could move up fast.

That also fits what the scout notes about Noonan being a cool customer, a true baseball player. That makes what he said about his quick bat and exceptional knowledge of the strike zone more real to me. He knows Noonan, he has seen Noonan enough to make such an assessment accurately. When you get the anonymous quotes from scouts, you don't know what exactly you are getting from him or her, but if it fits in with other bits of information, that for me validates what the scout says, he wouldn't have a job if he couldn't identify skill sets and he talks about qualities about Noonan that you would only get from knowing him relatively well.

So from a mental and emotional standpoint, Noonan looks like a good prospect to me. He is less likely to be a flakey kind of personality like Todd Linden, where his mind and mental attitude interfered with him performing the way his AAA performance suggests that he would in the majors. Nick sounds like a level-headed leader who can play ball in a complete way. That's a great start for a prospect, now lets hope that his skills translates in the pros. And according to a comment I just read, he has been doing well.

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