Philadelphia- Get Excited About This One


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Aaron Nola has been pretty good in the minor leagues. Of course, if you are a Phillies fan, you already know that though. You’ve heard about him in Clearwater, maybe even caught a start of his since he got to Reading. You’ve seen his stat sheet somewhere, or caught a box score. At the very minimum, somewhere you’ve heard how there’s a really good pitcher coming up.

Last year I caught his last start of the season, in Trenton, and was mildly impressed by him. While he had a good stat line that night, he pitched out of trouble several times without racking up strikeouts. I left there feeling AA was exactly where Nola belonged at the time. He was very good, and could be even better, but he needed time.

Thursday night was the first time I had seen him since, and he’s not the same guy. After watching him strikeout the first two hitters he faced in AAA, I realized this is an even better version of Nola. Nola does not throw 95+ mph, and for that reason it is easy to label him as a guy that doesn’t get swing-and-misses, but that would be incorrect. His baseball does not come in straight, it has a movement on it that makes it very hard to square up. His command is excellent already, as he surrendered just one walk in this game, and did not allow a lot of hard-hit contact. He was able to get key strikeouts in big spots, and also to allow weak contact that he could pitch around. Again, he’s not your normal top prospect throwing in the upper-90s with his fastball and just smoking guys, but Nola was getting lots of whiffs on multiple different pitches.

One start does not make a season, or career, and to be fair, Nola pitched just five innings. Some of this was because he was getting more strikeouts, and some of this was because the umpire squeezed him. To be fair, and to temper my expectations of his future, I’d say he’s probably right where he should be right now, and for the rest of 2015. He will be challenged more in AAA, and will get a chance to finish his development, which is far more important than entertaining fans in Philadelphia that are probably watching a losing team anyway. Whether he should make an appearance or two in September is well beyond my call here, but I would say that capping his innings, and service time, in what is a lost season for the big league club, is the right move to make.

It’s a tough season to be a Phillies fan, and it’s especially hard when watching pitchers with far less talent take the hill instead of Nola. Have patience though. Take a ride to Allentown and watch this guy pitch. You will not be disappointed. Be excited about this guy, who should be a big part of the rotation as quickly as 2016.

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