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Phillies 2014 Draft Preview - Aaron Nola, RHP

If the Phillies are serious about developing Pitchers who don't give up, like 20 walks a game, they should be in (or near, at least) NOLA, scouting Nola.

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Aaron Nola is a 6'1", 183 lb Right Handed Pitcher from LSU. He'll be 21 almost exactly on draft day. He was a Second Round pick out of High School in 2011 by the Toronto Blue Jays. Last year and this coming year, he is the Friday Pitcher for LSU (if you don't know what that means, Friday is always Ace night for College teams. The best pitcher on the staff typically goes on Fridays). Baseball America currently lists him as the 5th best College Prospect heading into the 2014 season. He sports an 8.45 K:BB ratio. Racking up a somewhat pedestrian 8.79 K/9 against an insanely miniscule 1.04 BB/9. He's not getting drafted to be anyone's Ace, but he'll be a top pick because he's a pretty surefire bet to Start in the Majors in a few years. If he can add some muscle and a few ticks on the Fastball, maybe he can be a solid #2 Starter. Safe pick for a team that might think they're only a few years away from competing.

So what does Nola have going for him as a Pitcher? He throws a 2-seam Fastball that probably grades out as a 55, with upside if he can add velocity without losing it's current hand side tail which runs in on right handed hitters. He current throws it in the 90-93 mph range. His second offering is a Power Curve, which is similarly about a 55 pitch, but shows the potential to be a plus pitch (60 or better) with some refinement with a staff like the Phillies that has done fairly well with curveball pitchers. His one drawback on the Curve comes from his delivery. Nola pitches with a 3/4 arm slot that borders on sidearm. That causes a few problems: For one thing, he already a little shorter than ideal for a Pitcher and the low arm slot gets rid of even more downward plane on his pitches. Secondly when he tries to work inside with the Curve on Right Handers, the ball sometimes hangs a bit. Since everyone knows what a "hanging curve" is, I probably don't need to go into detail about why that's a bad thing. It is correctable though with some coaching and a pro-workout regimen, this issue on the Fastball speed should both resolve some. His third major pitch is his change-up, which is an average offering (50 on the scouting scale), but could play up die to his 2 Seamer coming from the same arm slot.

By far Nola's best feature is his advanced pitchability. He already 'gets' pitch sequencing. He changes the hitters eye level, works corners, sets up his stuff. He's a real Pitcher, not just a thrower. A team could probably Mike Leake Nola, though a few years in the Minors to refine things would be a big help (and probably would have been for Leake, as well).

How 'bout a video? The one below is from the 2012 Cape Cod League (video by mkalbis). I'm not a Pitching Mechanics expert, but I do know that I've read a lot about them and the mechanics below look textbook for the armslot he pitches from. No "inverted W", by the time his foot plants his hand is up with the ball facing Center, his glove is well controlled and tucked to his chest, his foot faces landing foot faces home plate without fading off towards 1st or 3rd (which can lead to the pitch travelling to the same side of the plate) and the whole motion doesn't look high effort. It's a pretty simple, clean delivery. He does lock his front leg now and then, which can lead to pitches coming in high, but ultimately these should be pretty easy to fix.

Here's an even better (and briefer) look at his mechanics. Video posted by Gibson D.

Here he is discussing his Complete Game streak from this past Season. I kept waiting for a question about Dwight Schrute.

I don't know how excited I'll be if Nola is the Phillies pick. He doesn't tick many Phillies boxes, as a Shorter Pitcher with limited projection, but he's somewhat in the Adam Morgan mold, he fits the new found emphasis on not Walking everyone and given the dearth of Pitching in the system ready to contribute, he'd be a nice, fast-track arm that could start for the Phils as soon as late 2016. That said, with the 7th pick in a deep Pitcher draft, I'd rather get a guy with a 40% chance of being an Ace, than getting a guy with a, perhaps, 70% chance of being a reliable #3 Starter.