Baseball Prospect Journal

Noah Cardenas seeks growth, national title

Noah CardenasScott Chandler, UCLA Athletics

Noah Cardenas garnered interest from professional scouts in the months leading up to the 2018 MLB draft. Cardenas was known for his defensive skills behind the plate throughout his career at Bishop Alemany High in California.

Cardenas wasn’t drafted out of high school and attended UCLA instead. During his first 2½ years at UCLA, Cardenas has developed into a well-rounded player. The improvements he has made offensively have allowed him to enhance his draft stock.

Scouts consider Cardenas, a junior catcher at UCLA, a potential early-round pick in July’s draft.

“It is always humbling to look up and see you are a draft prospect,” Cardenas said. “You always dream of being an MLB player ever since you were a kid. I understand not everyone is in that same estuation, so it’s really humbling, and I’m thankful to God for putting me in this situation.”

Cardenas played an essential role as a freshman at UCLA in 2019. He hit a notable .375 with six doubles, one triple, three home runs and 18 RBIs in 136 at-bats in 58 games. He also showed solid plate discipline, drawing 17 walks while striking out 14 times.

In a pandemic-shortened sophomore season, Cardenas didn’t have the same success offensively. He batted .237 with two doubles and 10 RBIs in 38 at-bats in 11 games.

Cardenas performed better last summer when he played in the California Collegiate League. He hit .322 with 27 walks and 18 RBIs over 29 games.

Cardenas is a 6-foot-1, 195-pound catcher who has notable defensive skills. He is agile and possesses a strong arm while also having notable instincts and solid receiving and blocking skills. He will stay behind the plate long-term.

Cardenas hasn’t called the pitches at UCLA. Instead, he receives the signs from UCLA coach John Savage. Learning from Savage has allowed Cardenas to gain a strong understanding of sequencing, he said.

“My ability to provide value on both sides of the ball is my biggest strength,” Cardenas said. “I really value my defense. I got the opportunity to play at UCLA because of my defense.

“My hitting came my senior year of high school and led into my freshman year of college. I don’t want to just be a traditional catcher who can catch and throw and then hits whatever. I want to hit in the middle of the lineup while being a staple behind the plate.”

Offensively, Cardenas is a right-handed hitter who uses a slightly crotched stance with a short, compact swing. His hitting mechanics are simple but effective. Cardenas is more of a line-drive hitter, possessing at best average power.

This season, Cardenas hopes to have a better mindset at the plate after struggling with that at times last year, he said.

“This year, I’m excited just to be the best version of myself, but I also feel I am as strong offensively as I am strong defensively,” Cardenas said. “I want to continue to show that this season. I’m stronger and think I will have a solid year for our team.”

Cardenas has developed into a well-rounded player during his first 2½ years at UCLA. He credits Savage for his growth defensively and improved ability handling a pitching staff. He also cites the UCLA coaching staff for his improvement offensively.

This season will be vital in determining Cardenas’ draft status. Despite the pro interest, Cardenas has a team-first focus and wants to help the Bruins advance deep into postseason play.

The Bruins boast one of the most talented rosters in college baseball. Besides Cardenas, shortstop Matt McLain, first baseman JT Schwartz, and right-handed pitchers Jesse Bergin and Nick Nastrini also are top draft prospects.

This season, the Bruins hope they can return to the College World Series for the first time since winning the national championship in 2013.

“The ultimate goal is I want to go win a national championship,” Cardenas said. “I don’t want to just go to Omaha. This junior class really hasn’t done anything. We went to a Super Regional our freshman year and lost in Game 3. Then sophomore year, we were off to a good start, but we didn’t get to finish it.

“There is a lot of motivation from our class, and we want to make an impact on this program. We just want to leave the program in a better place than when we got here.”

Read more in-depth stories on top 2021 MLB draft prospects at Baseball Prospect Journal.

Video of Noah Cardenas

Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. Hehas interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while hehas appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.

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