Please Step Forward: Rico Noel
The Padres farm system has seen extraordinary growth, over the last couple years, in depth. This system is brimming with future big league players. A few will have a big impact, but many more will at least see a big league paycheck. Every farm system has a handful of prospects that are teetering on the edge of extinction from prospectdom (yeah, I made that word up). I will discuss Padres prospects that have either been high profile or highly thought of by scouts at one point or another. Some have a chance to get that big league paycheck. Some have impact level talent and some could be solid role players. Each needs to take a big step forward this year or join Earl(Dinosaurs reference) in the unemployment and doomed for extinction line.
Jablonski Rico Noel (Rico Suave) finds himself in AAA this year. He was drafted out of Coastal Carolina in the 5th round of the 2010 draft. At 5’8″ he is not your typical prospect to get drafted by round 5. Most players that I put in the “need to step up” pile don’t steadily advance each year. Rico is an exception. He continues to work his way up the farm system each year. Rico is known for his base stealing prowess and solid outfield defense. Noel’s speed should not be understated and is the single best tool that could put him on the radar of the big club. He owns 236 steals in 458 career minor league games. Contrast that to his four career minor league home runs and you can see why speed and defense have to be elite to get noticed. The majority of his games have seen him covering CF and he projects to be good enough defensively to play in the Majors. His career on base percentage of .351 would seem pretty good, but in the minors that’s not extraordinary. Since he likely won’t be passing Cameron Maybin on the depth chart, he is likely destined as trade bait or as a AAAA back up or 5th OF type. His best shot at becoming an everyday CF’er is to improve his contact rate in order to get on base more often. A career .258 minor league hitter will get exploited in the bigs and his walk rate could significantly reduce from his minor league career of around 10 percent now, rendering that .351 on base percentage useless. Will he step forward this year and improve his contact rate and force a big league club to give him a look?
Projected future: ETA of 2015 with a likely career as a system player and an occasional big league payday.