In the 5th round of the MLB draft, the San Diego Padres took Jablonski (Rico) Noel, a center fielder from Coastal Carolina.

Let’s get right to the numbers:

Year PA BA OBP SLG BB K ExBH SB-A
Fresh 191 .240 .330 .329 19 45 9 16-20
Soph 281 .315 .427 .500 34 53 26 48-51
Junior 287 .348 .464 .587 40 41 31 56-69

Adjusted Junior year stats: .353/.474/.594, .469 wOBA. Coastal Carolina plays in a neutral park and their strength of schedule was 100th in the nation, courtesy of Boyd’s World.

That’s an interesting statistical profile. He improved each year, increasing his average, walk rate, and power, while cutting down the strikeouts. Noel is described as a player who, offensively, puts the ball in play and uses all fields (and, once he gets on, steals bases). However, check out those K-rates. For his career, he struck out 139 times in 759 plate appearances (18%).

Jeff Sackman has done some research on college strike out rates and  when to “red-flag” somebody because they whiff too much in college. He concludes:

Thus, we can tweak the warning range again. Instead of 15 percent to 17.5 percent, we’re looking at college strikeout rates between about 18.5 percent and 22 percent. Anything over 22 percent foretells serious contact problems; anything above about 18 percent suggests that a player will have to be awfully good in the other 82 percent of plate appearances to make up for the strikeouts.

Noel for his career is at 18.3%, but he has lowered it in each year (24% – 19% – 15%), which is a good sign. However, it is definitely a concern, especially for someone who does not possess a ton of power and whose game is built around speed and getting on base.

Noel’s strikeout issues were further evident on the Cape last summer, when he struck out 35 times in 134 PAs (26%). He hit .233/.336/.302 overall. At 5-9, 170, Rico needs to continue working on making contact as he enters pro ball.

He definitely has some positives attributes, including his overall on-base ability and, mainly, his defensive ability and the pure speed he brings to the field. During his four year career at Coastal Carolina – and including his Cape Cod League performance — he has stolen 146 bases in 170 attempts (86%).

Here’s some video of Noel.

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