Prospect Talk

Prospect Spotlight: Jhonkensy Noel

Trying to dive into the bottom half of our outfield prospect rankings can be a daunting task, especially if you don’t have much guidance or experience in the matter. What you can do, is look to the great Kenny Rogers for a helping hand and some age-old wisdom. Rogers couldn’t have said it better in his song The Gambler,

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run”

Truer words have never been spoken as you look at the prospects that have landed deep into our outfield prospect rankings. Using this guiding philosophy can help weed through prospects that may have greater questions about them. This becomes useful when dissecting Jhonkensy Noel, who comes in at number 68 on our list. His short career thus far in the minors has been marred by extreme highs and lows, but one thing that has remained steadfast throughout has been his power.

Noel was signed by Cleveland in 2017 out of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. In 2018, he quickly put himself on the map by showing off his power in the Dominican Summer League (DSL) as a 16-year-old. He would hit 10 home runs while showing he could be patient at the plate and take his walks with a 9.6% walk rate. There was not a very big concern at the time about the swing-and-miss potential with him, as he only had a strikeout rate of 22.3%.

In 2019, Noel came stateside as a 17-year-old and continued performing well despite being one of the youngest players on the field. He would hit six home runs, and 12 doubles, and have a triple slash line of .287/.349/.455. It was not overly exciting, but a body of work he could build off of and improve upon for the 2020 season. Unfortunately, COVID hit and he lost the entire season of development when he was primed to be a massive breakout that year.

Noel would use 2021 to put himself on the prospect map and he did so with authority. Unfortunately, for the fantasy baseball world, the ride for fans took off so fast that not many could hop onto the train in time. He came back to professional ball and not only destroyed baseballs but also managed to hit everything he saw. He ended the season with a triple slash line of .340/.390/.615 across three levels (Rookie ball, Low-A, and High-A). At all three levels, his walk rates were below 8.2% as he displayed a tendency to swing a lot and be less patient. His strikeout rates followed suit as they topped out at 27.9% at High-A. Ultimately, he showed his power was real and his bat skills were good and they complemented each other. He ended the season with 19 home runs and 14 doubles in only 70 games.

Noel and the Cleveland Guardians came into 2022 with sky-high expectations; however, what they got was a mixed bag of results. He again played at three levels (High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A), while being only 20 years old. During the season, his willingness to swing was exposed and his triple slash line plummeted down to .229/.310/.489. The drop was undoubtedly driven in part by his strikeout rate (30.9%) and the fact that pitchers at the higher levels generally have better stuff and better command of their pitches. While his contact was limited, the power was on full display and even downright impressive. He would hit 32 home runs on the season to go along with 26 doubles.

By the time the 2023 season was in full swing, Noel had lost who he was despite an aggressive assignment to Triple-A at 21 years old. His power numbers were still there through June, but the contact and batting average had plummeted even more. He had hit 14 home runs and 12 doubles over 72 games with only a .199 batting average. His struggles were again driven by his willingness to swing at almost everything. The free-swinging approach led to a slightly elevated strikeout rate of 27.2% and a 9% walk rate. It would take some more time and additional work, but he would turn things around and finish the year strong. From July 1st to September 12th he would put up a triple slash line of .270/.342/.488, to go along with 12 home runs and 11 doubles. During this span, he decreased his strikeout rate to 21% and maintained his walk rate at 7.8%

Fantasy Outlook for 2024

Noel will open the season back at Triple-A and have a ton of work ahead of him to show the Cleveland Guardians he is ready for the big leagues. He must build upon his strong finish to the 2023 season keep his strikeout rate below 25% and be patient enough at the plate to have a walk rate around 10%. If he can do this, the plus-plus power he possesses should play up even more and put him on a path toward making his major league debut by mid-summer. During the 2023 season at Triple-A, he had a max exit velocity of 116.5 mph and a 95th percentile exit velocity of 108.9 mph, but only a hard hit percentage of 37.4% and an average exit velocity of 86.8 mph. He continues to display the top-end power numbers but will need to make more consistent contact to reach the bigs in 2024. The offering that he struggled with the most in 2023 was the breaking ball, as he had a swinging strike percentage of 16.6% against them. His setup at the plate is very reminiscent of Eloy Jimenez and can be detrimental to his swing against the breaking ball unless he focuses on an opposite-field approach. His breakout year at Low-A in 2021 saw an approach where he hit the opposite field 29.8% of the time and he again reached those levels in 2023 (30.9%). If he can maintain the opposite-field approach and drive the ball to all parts of the ballpark, look for a monster season from him in 2024.

Mr. Rogers, The Gambler, please don’t haunt me for this, ALL IN!!!

The Author

Brian Labude

Brian Labude

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