05/22/07 10:11 AM ET
Prep star Noonan carries full toolbox
Skills, attitude foundation for talented shortstop
By Amanda Branam / Special to MLB.com
As one of the top high school prospects in the upcoming First-Year Player Draft, the Francis Parker High (San Diego) shortstop had a small army's worth of scouts and college coaches coming to his games, in hopes of one day having Noonan put on their team's uniform.
After all, what college coach or professional baseball organization couldn't use a player who hits for average and power, has range at shortstop and steals loads of bases without getting caught?
"For a while, it was really hectic, seeing everyone there," the 18-year-old said. "As time went on, I learned to play with it and accept it. I just tried really hard to control all the things I could control."
Noonan, selected to the Aflac All-American West team last season, said he was receiving two or three letters from colleges every day in the mail. He eliminated at least some of the stress by signing his letter of intent with Clemson in November, during the early signing period. His high school coach, David Glassey, estimates there were 20-30 scouts a game at one point this season.
"He's very unaffected by everything that's happened," Glassey said. "He's still one of the first to get to practice, and he's one of the last to leave."
All that practice has apparently paid off. When Noonan started his high school career at Parker, both he and Glassey were concerned with getting him prepared to play in college. Going straight out of high school and into professional baseball wasn't on their minds at that point.
"I'd say I definitely was working toward college," said Noonan. "That was the immediate goal. As time went on, I realized how much improvement I had made. Seeing scouts at the games really led me to believe I could."
It didn't take too long for Glassey to realize that his starting shortstop could go on to much higher levels.
"It started to become very evident that he was an elite Division I player that was a draftable kid," he said.
As of May 14, Noonan -- who bats left-handed and throws right-handed -- was hitting .559 with 42 RBIs in the high school season. He had slugged 10 homers, nine triples, and 14 doubles. As far as speed is concerned, Noonan had stolen 33 bases in 34 attempts at that point.
After reading off Noonan's numbers through 26 of the team's 28 regular-season games, Glassey just laughs to himself and says, "He's having a pretty good year."
Noonan had also been intentionally walked nine times. The Parker head coach recalls a game earlier this season when his team had runners at first and second, and Noonan was in the batter's box with an 0-2 count. With a double steal, first base became open. The opposing team, with only one strike needed to finish Noonan off, opted to intentionally walk him.
"He would be what you consider a five-tool player," said Glassey, who has been the coach at Parker for 25 years. "[Scouts] like the way he carries himself on the field. That's where I think he is ahead of other high school kids. He understands the game very well. He's a student of the game."
That brings up the next thing baseball people like about the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Noonan: his mental makeup. Plenty of players have ability, and are even incredibly gifted. But few, especially at such a young age, are capable of handling 30 pairs of eyes at a game just to see how that player moves his feet when reacting to a ground ball, how he swings at a fastball, or if he can get from first to third on a single.
Noonan's combination of talent and mental toughness caused one Yankees scout to tell Glassey that the shortstop was reminiscent of Derek Jeter at that age.
"I was really glad to hear that, to be compared with someone like that," Noonan said. "I admire how he goes about his business, on and off the field."
For the time being, Noonan is focused on getting his Francis Parker team back to the CIF San Diego Division IV championship game. The Lancers won it all in 2004, Noonan's freshman year and his first on varsity. They've made it to the semifinals the last two years, and each of those two years, Noonan was named the Coastal League South player of the year, and the CIF San Diego Division IV player of the year.
"The thing I like about Nick is his attitude and effort. Certainly, his skills are far superior to that of other high school kids, but what I really appreciate is his dedication, hard work, and attitude. That's what I value most," said Glassey.
"Nick is by far the best player that this school has ever seen."
Amanda Branam is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.