Back in February, as pitchers and catchers reported to spring training, I wanted to be bold. I made my roster predictions, and I wanted to go away from conventional thinking in the rotation. This is what I wrote at the time:
I really wanted to shake up the system here and predict either Hector Noesi making the rotation or the Yankees pulling off a late-spring trade for a fourth starter. In the end, I decided to go with conventional thinking. I do think Noesi could make a serious run at a rotation spot…
Of course, Noesi didn’t report to camp on time, and he was sent to the minor league complex long before making any sort of impression. He instead made an impression in the regular season, sliding into a long relief role and pitching well enough to stay in the big league bullpen.
But what to do with Noesi going forward?
Yesterday, Kevin Goldstein reported that Noesi will be working as a starter this winter. It makes sense in so many ways, not only to build up his innings, but also to let him return to the role he had throughout the minor leagues.
Noesi has proven he can get big league hitters out, and although his walks were up this season, he has a strong history of throwing strikes. He kind of reminds me of Ivan Nova, if only because he never generated Phil Hughes-level prospect hype, but he still pitched well in the minor leagues and drew some relatively quiet raves about his ultimate potential.
Given the number of strong rotation prospects in the upper levels of the Yankees system, it’s inevitable that some will be either traded or converted to the bullpen, and it may be that Noesi has found his spot as a reliever. I could be that he’ll continue to thrive in that role, eventually moving into late-inning situations.
But there’s a lot to be said for letting a young starter stay in the rotation until he proves he can’t handle it. If Noesi has enough to make it as a big league starter — and the Yankees don’t need him in the bullpen next season — it might be worth taking a look. Maybe it’s next spring that I’ll go against conventional thinking and predict Noesi breaking camp with a rotation spot.
Associated Press photo