Noah Cardenas is UCLA’s backstop. Cardenas is mostly known as a defender. The right-handed batter has a 60-fielding and arm grade on MLB Pipeline. According to Pipeline, Cardenas has “outstanding agility” and “plus blocking and receiving skills”. He has also gotten a ton of praise for his strong arm which threw out about 50% of would-be base stealers in 2021.
Although Cardenas’ calling card is defense, he hasn’t been all that bad of a hitter in college. In 469 plate appearances, Cardenas has a .302/.407/.426 line with a .378 wOBA. He hasn’t hit for much power. Cardenas had just 8 home runs and 20 doubles throughout all of college. Plus his .124 isolated slugging percentage isn’t too awe-inspiring.
However, he has gotten on base a ton and makes a ton of contact. Cardenas has walked at a solid 9.6% rate. But his strikeout rate sits at just 14.1%. Cardenas’ stock fell some as he followed up his outstanding 2019 season with a so-so 2021 season. His OPS fell from .976 to .774. Overall, he only has a 45-hit tool and a 40-power tool.
Though his ability to get on base, make consistent contact, and pair that with well above average defense makes him an interesting pick. Cardenas does have a 6’1, 185-pound frame. The 22-year-old could add a little bit of bulk to help increase his power. The Pirates don’t want to be stuck in a Kevin Newman situation where they have a player who doesn’t make hard enough contact to get it out of the infield.