Nick Noonan has been brought back to big-league camp after the demotion of Kensuke Tanaka and Wilson Valdez’s release. Tony Abreu continues to sit out with a quad injury, so Noonan appears to have the inside track at the utility infielder position if Abreu has to start the season on the DL. In light of his opportunity to start the season on the MLB roster, I decided to highlight him for a prospect profile.
Personal information: Noonan was born on May 4th, 1989, making this his age 24 season. He was drafted 32nd overall in 2007 out of Parker HS in San Diego. Want to feel old? He was a compensation draft pick the Giants got from the Mets when the Mets signed Moises Alou. He’s listed at 6’1″ tall and 170 lbs, and he’s from Poway, CA.
The Good: Noonan had a decent season last year at Fresno, hitting .296/.347/.416 while walking 7.4% of the time and striking out only 15.5% of the time. He can play anywhere in the infield, having played mostly second base in his minor league career but spending most of the season last year playing shortstop. He showed a bit of pop for a middle infielder last year, putting up a .120 ISO. I suppose the best thing I can say about Noonan is that he doesn’t do anything terribly. He makes okay contact, has a little power, and he’s an average defender. He’s still young, so there’s a bit of hope that he’s got some development left to do. He was, at one point, relatively highly regarded, as he was a first-round draft pick, and then made appearances on Baseball America’s top-10 prospects list for the Giants twice, at #6 on the pre-2008 list and #5 on the pre-2009 list.
The Bad: Noonan might not do anything terribly, but he doesn’t do anything particularly well either. His .296 batting average in 2012 was his highest since his rookie-ball campaign in 2008, and his .120 ISO was his highest since 2009 in San Jose. He’s an average defender, but nothing special, and probably doesn’t have sufficient arm strength to play third – which is a new-found concern with Pablo having elbow issues that may keep him out of the opening day lineup. Also, he bats left-handed, and the Giants are likely more interested in finding a right-handed bat to round out the bench.
Conclusion: There’s really no reason to feel particularly strongly about the possibility of Noonan making the Opening Day roster. Last year, Ryan Theriot stayed on the 25-man roster the whole year while hitting .270/.316/.321. Theriot’s line is a reasonable benchmark; I think that’s about what Noonan would hit if he were kept around all year. Two key differences exist, however: Noonan likely wouldn’t get 384 PA, like Theriot got last year, and Noonan would be about $750,000 cheaper than Theriot was last year.
There really isn’t a huge downside to keeping Noonan when the team moves north, especially if it’s only going to be for as long as Abreu needs to recover from his lingering quad injury. Noonan is what he is; a utility infielder who’s probably somewhere around replacement level. If the team needs to carry him for a couple weeks while Abreu and Sandoval get healthy, it’s not the end of the world. Otherwise, he’ll spend much of the season in Fresno. But this is likely who he is – a utility infielder who can play multiple positions but isn’t going to amount to much and likely won’t push anyone for a starting job.