Branden Noriega Signs – Pic via his Twitter Account

When the Cubs selected Branden Noriega In the 11th round of the 2022 draft, the name rang a bell. It took me a few seconds to open up a spreadsheet I kept of data from the MLB Draft League. Sure enough, there was Noriega’s name with a lot of high velocity rankings. His fastball sat anywhere from 94 to 97. However, I didn’t find any type of data on other pitches he threw that would qualify as elite from the league.

His Tik-Tok page is filled with a plethora of videos of him pitching in the lab and for the West Virginia Black Bears. He’s got some amazing arm-side run on his fastball. There are dozens of videos that show its nastiness.

In the MLB Draft League, the 21-year-old lefty only pitched 11 innings and struck out 14. He had a 4.91 ERA. He was listed as nonaffiliated which meant that he didn’t go to school. He had to play somewhere. You don’t just show up in the MLB Draft League and start throwing in the mid 90s.

Basic Info

Height 6′ 2″
Weight 180lbs
Age 21
Throws – Left
From Princeton, Florida

The Mystery Deepens

In doing some digging, I found out that Noriega was a well thought of outfielder in high school at a couple of schools in Florida. He graduated in 2019 and made the 4A-8 All District Team and the Senior All-Star Public Team as a position player. As a senior, he hit .429 with five homeruns and an OPS of over 1.400. Like many high schoolers, Noriega also pitched. His appeared in 10 games his senior year with some pretty ugly stats. He only threw a total of 25 innings and had six wild pitches and an ERA over eight. However, there is video of him as a junior throwing in some serious gas at 17 years old.

There were a few schools linked to him including Palm Beach State, Alabama State, and Miami Dade College. 

Something had to have happened between 2019 and 2022. Part of it might’ve been the pandemic. I can only speculate that maybe he did not do well in school or didn’t like school or maybe his family needed him to work. An injury might have put him on the sideline, too. There’s a whole plethora of things that could’ve gone on to cause him to not play affiliated college baseball. We’re not gonna get all the answers today But I’m sure it’s a hell of a tale and an inspirational one at that.

Because of our lack of knowledge about his total past, we don’t really know what the club’s plans are for him. The most logical course of action would be as a reliever since he is left-handed and he can throw in the mid 90s. But we don’t know that. It’s clear from his high school statistics that he was a pretty good athlete at the plate. And it’s clear from the draft the data that the Cubs have something to build around.

Prospects Live really liked the pick of Noriega. Here is what they said that sheds some more light on his potential.

Noriega is one of the more extravagant pure upside picks in the draft. He has a live arm with a fastball that has been up to 98 in the Draft League. He possesses a super lean, wiry athletic build that has plenty of room for physical projection. There is work to be done in regards to polishing up his mechanics. As a result,  this could improve his kinematic chain which would unlock more velocity, as well as developing a more consistent breaking ball.  All in all, Noriega oozes with upside as he has all the tools to become a quality day three selection for the Cubs.

The Cubs probably already put together his development plan that includes some weight training, nutrition, and some mental skills activities along with some mindfulness. When it comes to the actual art of pitching a lot of what happens is going to be determined by the baseline that he set when he showed up for his physical and threw in the pitch lab. Because the Cubs will likely tweak a few things and then see what happens in the spring.

The most logical assignment for him next year will probably be extended spring training and then he would go from there. He might end up at Myrtle Beach, he might go to Mesa for the summer. It just depends on how he develops over the next seven months. It’s gonna be an interesting story to follow.

Cade HortonJackson FerrisChristopher Paciolla
Nazier MuleBrandon BirdsellWill Fritsch
Nick HullMason McGwire Connor Noland
Brody McCulloughBranden NoriegaMathew Peters
Luis RujanoShane MarshallHaydn McGeary
JP WheatAndy GarriolaKe’Shun Collier
Garrett Brown
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