Sunday Notes: Five Years and a Rule-5 Later, Ryan Noda Receives a Third Comp

Ryan Noda was a 22-year-old Toronto Blue Jays prospect coming off his first full professional season when he led Sunday Notes on December 15, 2018. Drafted in the 15th round out of the University of Cincinnati a year earlier, Noda had logged 20 home runs and a .421 OBP with then-Low-A Lansing, prompting me to compare him to former Bearcat Kevin Youkilis. With the caveat “I’m not close to being in his class,” he told me that he modeled his game after Joey Votto.

Five years and two organizations later, Noda is now a big-leaguer himself. Selected by the Oakland Athletics out of the Los Angeles Dodgers system in last winter’s Rule 5 draft, the left-handed-hitting first baseman proceeded to put up solid numbers with MLB’s worst-performing club. In 495 plate appearances, Noda logged a team-best .364 OBP and slugged 16 home runs with a 123 wRC+.

“I don’t mind those two comps at all,” Noda replied when I reminded him of our bygone conversation. “I certainly wouldn’t mind having either of their careers, either.”

It’s probably safe to say that Noda won’t go on to match, or even approximate, what Votto has accomplished over his storied career. Channeling Youkilis, who was 27 years old — Noda’s current age — when he established himself as a big-league regular could be another story. The erstwhile corner infielder averaged 20 home runs with a .385 OBP and a 127 wRC+ in his seven-season prime.

Stylistically speaking — Youkilis being a righty aside — would he comp himself more to one than the other?

“Not really,” said Noda. “But I do take both of them into account with how I go about hitting. I’m trying to get a pitch to drive and from there hopefully driving it. In this game, patience is important — and not just at the plate. It’s a long season, and if you can stick to what you do best, even when you’re going bad, you can be successful.”

Noda and I were at Fenway Park when he spoke those words, which brought to mind yet another comp. I asked him how familiar he is with 23-year-old Red Sox rookie Triston Casas.

“Not too much,” Noda responded. “I know he’s a good ballplayer and that he can swing it well. It will be interesting to see him play over the years and watch how similar we maybe are. But again, I don’t know too much about him.”

Casas had a 13.9% walk rate to go with 24 home runs and 129 wRC+ in 502 plate appearances this season. Noda had a 15.6% walk rate to go with his aforementioned 16 home runs and 123 wRC+ over 495 plate appearances. With the caveat that Casas is three years younger and has a first-round pedigree — Boston drafted him 26th-overall in 2018 — there are definitely some similarities. If Casas goes on to meet expectations, Noda wouldn’t mind having his career either.

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Bryce Harper is 20 for 49 against Julio Teheran.

Brian Harper went 18 for 44 against Dave Stewart.

Tommy Harper went 21 for 56 against Dave McNally.

Terry Harper went 11 for 18 against Bruce Ruffin.

George Harper went 32 for 71 against Grover Cleveland Alexander.

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Left on the cutting-room floor from Thursday’s interview with former Seattle Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara were his reflections on the club’s fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft. With the 131st-overall selection, Seattle took a third baseman whose collegiate career comprised all of 51 games and 229 plate appearances.

“We needed a senior, because we’d spent money,” McNamara told me. “Patrick Kivlehan was a safety on the Rutgers football team. He played both baseball and football. The amazing story about Kivlehan is that he didn’t play college baseball for his first three years. I remember flying in and talking to the coach at Rutgers. I asked him, ‘How did he make the team?’ He said, ‘He asked if he could try out for the team. I told him we had a spot, but he was probably never going to play.’ Well, what happened is that Rutgers’ third baseman tore a hamstring and Kivlehan ended up playing third base and almost winning the Triple Crown in the Big East. We took him in the fourth round and he got to the big leagues. He played with Arizona and Cincinnati, and I think San Diego.”

The Mariners traded Kivlehan to the Texas Rangers in December 2015 as part of a five-player deal, reacquired him six months later in exchange for Justin De Fratus, then released him in early August. The Padres picked him up, and Kivlehan made his MLB debut a few weeks later. He went to log a 84 wRC+ over 250 plate appearances in what was ultimately a modest big-league career.

The player taken one pick after Kivlehan has had a notable career that took awhile to get off the ground. The Baltimore Orioles selected Christian Walker 132nd overall out of the University of South Carolina, only to place him on waivers five years later after 31 nondescript big-league plate appearances. Then came a four-week rollercoaster that eventually landed the slugging first baseman in his current home. The Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds both claimed, but then waived, Walker before the Arizona Diamondbacks inked him to a contract on the eve of the 2017 season. The rest is history. Hitting in the middle of the D-Backs lineup, Walker has 69 home runs and a 122 wRC+ over the past two seasons.

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A quiz:

Which pitcher holds the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise record for strikeouts in a single season? (A hint: he also has the franchise’s second-highest single-season strikeout total.)

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

Brad Ciolek, who has been serving as Baltimore’s director of draft operations, is leaving the organization and will be joining the Washington Nationals. Ciolek has overseen the last five Orioles drafts, which include the selections of Gunnar Henderson, Jackson Holliday, Heston Kjerstad, and Adley Rutschman,

Toronto Blue Jays coach Luis Rivera has decided to retire. The 59-year-old former big-league infielder had coached and managed in the Jays system since 2010.

Casey Cox, who pitched for the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers from 1966-1972, and then briefly for the New York Yankees, died earlier this month at age 82 (per Baseball Player Passings). The right-hander’s best season came in 1969 when he went 12-7 with a 2.78 ERA.

SABR’s Larry Dierker chapter will hold a dual in-person/Zoom meeting tomorrow (Monday October 16) beginning at 7pm with former Astros announcer Bill Brown the guest speaker. More information can be found here.

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The answer to the quiz is Bob Veale, with 276 strikeouts in 1965. A year earlier, the hard-throwing southpaw logged an NL-best 250 strikeouts, the second-highest total in Pirates franchise history.

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The Houston Astros advancing to their seventh consecutive LCS ranks right up there with the 1990s Atlanta Braves and multiple decades of New York Yankees American League supremacy. The grownup sons of the expansion Colt .45s are eight wins away from a third World Series title since 2017.

The Brooklyn Dodgers deserve some love here. Shortly before being relocated to Los Angeles in 1958, “Dem Bums” reached the World Series five times from 1949-1956. and their win totals in the three years they fell just short were 89, 97, and 92 (in what was then a 154-game-schedule). The winningest of those not-quite seasons was famously painful — Bobby Thomson’s Shot Heard ‘Round the World capping a four-run bottom of the ninth inning for the New York Giants. Four years after that soul-crushing 1951 defeat, Brooklyn won its only World Series by beating the Yankees in seven games. Johnny Podres was on the mound for the 2-0 clincher, while Gil Hodges drove in both runs.

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

NPB’s postseason got underway on Saturday with the Chiba Lotte Marines beating the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 8-2. Twenty-one-year-old wunderkind Roki Sasaki threw three scoreless innings for the winning side, while 2018 Atlanta Braves first-round pick Carter Stewart was tagged with the loss.

NPB’s other first-stage contest saw the Hiroshima Carp edge past the Yokohama DeNA BayStars 3-2 in 11 innings with a pair of former MLB pitchers getting the decisions. Nik Turley was credited with the win, while J.B. Wendelken was tagged with the loss. Game 2 of each best-of-five, first-stage matchups are today.

Update: Hiroshima defeated DeNA 4-2 and will go on to play the Central League champion Hanshin Tigers in the next round. SoftBank beat Chiba Lotte 3-1, setting up a deciding Game 3 to determine who goes up against the Pacific League champion Orix Buffaloes.

Yuki Matsui, who will reportedly be exercising his international free agent rights this offseason, made his 500th NPB appearance in his final game of the regular season The 27-year-old Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles southpaw had 39 saves and a 1.60 ERA this year.

Seunghwan Oh recorded his 400th KBO save, and his 522nd professionally, on Saturday. The 36-year-old Samsung Lions right-hander’s resume includes 80 saves in NPB and 42 more in MLB.

Erick Fedde went 20-6 with a 2.06 ERA for the KBO’s NC Dinos. The 30-year-old former Washington National right-hander had 204 strikeouts and 134 hits allowed in 174-and-two-thirds innings.

Dong Ju Moon went 8-8 with a 3.72 ERA over 118-and-two-thirds innings for the KBO’s Hanwha Eagles. The 19-year-old right-hander went six scoreless in his last start of the season.

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Dixie Howell holds three obscure big-league records. Per his B-Ref bio page, the Harold, Kentucky native is the last relief pitcher to hit two home runs in the same game, having done so with the Chicago White Sox on June 16, 1957. Moreover, all five hits he had that season — a double, a triple, and three home runs — went for extra bases (Rick Wrona subsequently tied Howell’s most-hits-sans-a-single record in 1994 while playing with the Milwaukee Brewers). Howell also holds the record for the longest time between when he first pitched in the majors and when he got his first victory. He made his MLB debut in 1940 and wasn’t credited with a win until 1955.

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FARM NOTES

Alexander Albertus slashed .310/.471/.468 with five home runs and a 152 wRC+ in 170 plate appearances between the Dominican Summer League and the Arizona Complex League. A native of Oranjestad, Aruba, the 18-year-old infielder in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization drew 38 walks and fanned just 19 times.

Cesar Quintas had a .516 BABIP in 168 plate appearances with Giants Orange, one of two San Francisco entries in the Arizona Complex League. The 20-year-old outfielder fromValencia, Venezuela slashed .372/.506/.473 with one home run and a 159 wRC+.

Jakob Marsee has 19 hits, including nine for extra bases, in 38 at-bats for the Arizona Fall League’s Peoria Javelinas. The 22-year-old outfielder in the San Diego Padres system slashed .274/.413/.428 with 16 home runs this year between High-A Fort Wayne and Double-A San Antonio. Marsee is a former Central Michigan University Chippewa.

Carter Howell has seven hits, including a triple and a pair of home runs, in 21 at-bats with the Arizona Fall League’s Scottsdale Scorpions. The 24-year-old Fargo, North Dakota-born outfielder in the San Francisco Giants system swatted 10 taters and had a .295/.369/.442 slash line between Low-A San Jose and High-A Eugene.

Liam Hicks is 16-for-28, including four doubles, for the Arizona Fall League’s Surprise Saguaros. The 24-year-old, Toronto, Ontario-born catcher in the Texas Rangers organization slashed .275/.414/.373 with four home runs between High-A Hickory and Double-A Frisco.

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The following paragraph is included in Jonathan Mayo’s Smart, Wrong, and Lucky: The Origin Stories of Baseball’s Unexpected Stars:

“It begs the question, of course. If the Padres area scout and regional crosschecker had him in as a second rounder, if a national crosschecker saw him, if the the scouting director came in to see a private workout, all of which occurred according to Campbell, how on earth did Mookie Betts become a San Diego Padre?”

Betts, as has been well chronicled, lasted until the fifth round of the 2011 draft when he was taken by the Boston Red Sox with the 172nd-overall pick. The Padres, who had the 173rd pick that year, had taken eight players earlier in the draft, including four supplemental first-round selections. None of them have come close to matching Betts’s accomplishments.

Mayo addresses that part of the backstory, as well as how Betts ultimately landed in Boston, in his must-read book.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

MLB.com’s Michael Clair wrote about how power-hitting Japanese high school phenom Rintaro Sasaki will reportedly bypass the NPB draft and, with MLB in mind, instead attend college in the United States.

Dan Connolly offered some observations from the Orioles’ postseason press conference, and opined on the Mike Elias-Brandon Hyde partnership, at Baltimore’s WHAR.

True Blue LA’s Eric Stephen wonders if Clayton Kershaw has thrown his last pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Covering the Corner’s Matt Dallas looked back at the 1949 Cleveland Indians, who failed to defend a World Series championship. More than seven decades later, the fanbase awaits its first title since 1948.

Over at Bless You Boys, Patrick O’Kennedy gave us an offseason calendar covering not only the Detroit Tigers, but also MLB as a whole. From the GM Meetings to the non-tender deadline to the Rule 5 draft, it’s all here.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Including the postseason, NLCS managers Torey Lovullo and Rob Thomson have a combined 672 managerial wins. ALCS managers Dusty Baker and Bruce Bochy have a combined 4,379 managerial wins.

Lance Lynn allowed 48 home runs in 186-and-a-third innings (including the postseason). Sonny Gray allowed 10 home runs in 193 innings (also including the postseason).

Mookie Betts is 6-for-48 with two extra-base hits over his last three postseason series. Trea Turner is 18-for-42 with 10 extra-base hits over his last three postseason series.

Ronald Acuña Jr’s combined runs scored-RBI total during the regular season was 255. Matt Olson’s combined runs scored-RBI total was 266.

The league-average team totals for stolen bases and caught-stealings this year were 117 and 29 respectively. The most-league-average team was the Seattle Mariners, with 118 stolen bases and 30 caught-stealings. The New York Mets swiped 118 bases and were caught just 15 times.

Arizona Diamondbacks batters combined for 36 sacrifice hits this season, the most of any team. Atlanta Braves batters combined for two sacrifice hits this season, the fewest of any team

Minnesota Twins pitchers combined to allow 443 walks with a franchise record 1,560 strikeouts. Pitchers for the 1991 World Series champion Twins combined to allow 488 walks with 876 strikeouts.

Bob Gibson got the win as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the New York Yankees 7-5 in World Series Game 7 on today’s date in 1964. The Boyer brothers both homered — Clete for the losing side and Ken for he victors — as did Lou Brock, Mickey Mantle, and Phil Linz.

On today’s date in 1975, Luis Tiant went the distance as the Boston Red Sox edged the Cincinnati Reds 5-4 in Game 4 of the World Series. El Tiant threw 163 pitches while scattering nine hits and four walks. The Reds stranded eight runners, including two in the bottom of the ninth.

Players born on today’s date include Tommy Toms, a right-handed pitcher who appeared in 18 games for the San Francisco Giants from 1975-1977. The Charlottesville, Virginia native went 0-1 in each of the three seasons, and was credited with one save.

Also born on today’s date was Jim Command, a third baseman who went 4-for-25 while getting cups of coffee with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1954 and 1955. The Grand Rapids, Michigan native’s lone home run was a grand slam off of Brooklyn Dodgers right-hander Carl Erskine.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Left of Centerfield
4 months ago

Ah, when the quiz answer is a player you’ve barely heard of. About the only hint that might have helped me would have been something like “last name rhymes with meal”.
Anyway, Veale actually has 4 of the 5 highest single season totals in Pirates history. The other one belongs to Oliver Perez.

sadtrombonemember
4 months ago

I don’t think I remembered there was a player named Veale, and I don’t think any number of hints would help jog my memory.

I thought that the obvious answer was Gerrit Cole, so I decided it couldn’t be him. So I decided to go way, way out there and pick Bert Blyleven. He would pitch close to 300 innings in a year, and he played with the Pirates but no one remembers that he did. But it turns out that his years in Pittsburgh were more like 240 innings instead of 300, and even then he was not going to top Veale’s best years.

Interestingly, if you go down past the Bob Veale and Oliver Perez cluster the next name on the list is Mitch Keller in 2023.

PC1970
4 months ago

I barely remembered there was a guy named Bob Veale, much less that he was a big K guy.

Like sad, I knew Cole was too obvious & also remembered that he didn’t become a big K guy until he went to Houston.

Unlike sad, I remembered Blyleven didn’t rack up big innings totals in Pittsburgh, so figured it couldn’t be him. (His top 10 innings years were all before or after his 3 yr Pittsburgh stint)

Ended up going with AJ Burnett..who did have 209 K’s one year & is 1 behind Mitch Keller’s 210 this year.

Pittsburgh is weird in that for an original franchise, they never had an old-time HOF type pitcher that pitched most of his career with them, other than maybe Babe Adams…& they’ve never really had a great pitcher pitch a long time for them recently, either. I think their retired #’s & HOF’ers are all position players.

Ivan_Grushenkomember
4 months ago

I guessed John Candelaria which wasn’t even close to being correct. I knew Bob Veale was their ace for a long time but never associated him with strikeouts. I also incorrectly remembered him as the ace of the 1960 WS Champions who was actually Bob Friend.

Left of Centerfield
4 months ago
Reply to  Ivan_Grushenko

I was between Candelaria and Drabek. Went with Drabek but neither was a good guess.

Tonymember
4 months ago

Bob Veale was in his prime when I was in elementary school. I remember him having big glasses on his baseball card. He had seven solid seasons on a row as a starter.