Sunday Notes, March 29th

Hello. I am back with another edition of Sunday notes. Today I want to talk about Aaron Nola and the draft. And maybe something else if I can remember what it was. My plan is to continue to write at least once per week during the season, likely on Sundays, but it will depend on my work travel schedule. I may also pop up with a mid-week entry or something else, but for now, Sundays will work best for me. Thanks as always for reading.

As we all know, our new savior pitched 3 innings last Friday against the Yankees. During the winter, the Phillies made “news” by not inviting Nola to big league camp, instead opting for him to spend time on the minor league side. They decided to bring him over for an appearance with the big league team, the same way they did for Cole Hamels when he was first drafted, and then he had “the inning” that everyone talked about until he made it to the majors. So everyone was hyped to see Nola pitch. I missed it live, but found highlights, and I’ve taken those highlights and created some gifs to discuss what I saw. (if the gifs are too small for you, you can open them in a new tab and they should be a bit bigger)

Delivery

As has been discussed since he was drafted, Nola has a funky low 3/4 delivery, meaning his release point is much lower than normal for a righthanded starter. The lower release point allows him to put more movement on his pitches, and I believe it is the key to his changeup, which I will get to in a minute. His motion is fairly unconventional, but he’s had no history of injury or arm trouble or anything like that, so the Phillies should probably leave it alone.

Fastball

fastball

Nola was unfairly compared to Mike Leake around draft time, because he was very polished, had excellent command, and didn’t throw 97. Aaron Nola is not Mike Leake. Nola’s fastball appeared to have sat in the 92-94 range, which is consistent with what he did in college, and once he is warmed up and in midseason form, I think he’ll bump up to 95-96 when he needs it. As you can see here, his fastball has a bit of late action coming back over the inside corner. This one registered 94. If he can throw 94 mph darts to any spot he wants, he is going to be tough to hit.

Changeup

changeup

Typically, a righthander with a low release point struggles against lefthanded batters, because the ball leaks back over the plate and becomes more hittable. This is mitigated with a solid changeup. And if the above is any indication, Nola’s changeup will be a legitimate weapon. This one comes in at 82 mph and the bottom completely falls out. However, if you watch where it is caught, it is right at the bottom edge of the strikezone, maybe a tick lower. That might get called a strike if the batter doesn’t helplessly flail at it. Now, look at the fastball clip above and the changeup clip in sync. You can see the arm slot is the same, the arm speed is the same, and the difference is 12 mph. That is nasty.

Slider/Curve

slider

I’m not entirely sure if this is a slider or curveball. It has quite a bit of vertical drop but also moves horizontally away from the righthanded batter. This will obviously be required against righthanded hitters, though he did also throw a few changeups to righties, and he clearly has confidence in the pitch. This slurve, or whatever it is, came in at 79. And as you can see again, he does a good job maintaining consistent arm speed and slot on the delivery, so he isn’t tipping his hand.

Summary

Hitting a baseball is pretty hard to do. As a batter, you are looking for a weakness. A pattern, a trait, something that gives you an edge to know what is coming. When a pitcher maintains the same arm speed and arm slot for his pitches and he can throw them where he wants, it makes things significantly harder for the hitter. Is Nola one of the Phillies 5 best starters right now? Probably. Is it wrong that he is starting in the minors? I don’t think so. The Phillies can give him 2 months to get into a rhythm, get comfortable going every 5 days, and work on the last things he may need before he is ready. If they hold him in the minors until late June, he will pass the Super 2 deadline. Which buys the Phillies more control at lower dollars. It also gives the Phillies time to showcase the dreck in the big league rotation and try to flip someone for some kind of value. If Nola stays healthy, he’ll be a rotation staple for the Phillies for the next 7 years.

On the draft, I just have a few quick thoughts.

* In my first piece on the draft, I mentioned how every year scouts say the current crop is weak, but as the draft approaches, more guys pop up and the draft looks okay. This year, it doesn’t appear that is happening, at least so far. Mike Matuella has injury issues, Brady Aiken just had TJ surgery, and Dillon Tate has really been the only pop-up guy so far, and his profile has a few potential red flags. Yuck.

* Speaking of Brady Aiken, if he is there at #10, the Phillies should absolutely positively take him. Had he not been hurt, he’d have likely gone in the top 4 picks, possibly even #1 overall. Tommy John surgery isn’t an automatic minor issue where everyone comes back at 100% and starts dominating. Dylan Bundy is a good recent example of that. That said, the success rate is very high, and Aiken is a true potential #1 starter. At #10, it is unlikely there will be a more talented player on the board. The Phillies window to win isn’t next year or the year after. Draft Aiken, rehab him, let him take his time, and once he is back, he is going to move quickly. Aiken/Nola at the top of the rotation is a really good start.

* I’ll continue to shill for Alex Bregman and Dansby Swanson. Both guys look to be relatively safe bets, both would be elite defenders at 2B, and both have excellent hit tools. I think it is likely that Swanson will be gone before #10. But who knows, really. Aiken is my preferred choice at 10 for now, but I’d be happy with either of these guys.

* It is still early in the season for the northeast kids, so my hope is that in a few weeks, we start reading about pop-up guys in the northeast who have come out throwing 97 and look like big time top 10 arms. For now, things do not look good for this draft.

Until next time…

32 thoughts on “Sunday Notes, March 29th

  1. Lot of movement on those pitches. I love the little tail on the end of his fastball. That’s Kevin Brown, Roy Halladay, Greg Maddux-like movement. He may not be tall like Brown or Halladay, and that may prevent him from being a truly dominant No. 1 like those guys, but there is a lot of arm action and movement with his pitches. He is going to be a good one, assuming good health.

    1. I agree with the Greg Maddox association. But Maddox didn’t gain his “no walk” contol till in his late 20’s. His first few yrs (age 20 ish) he was walki.g almost 100 per yr. But he showed a gradual decrease in walks each yr he pitched. In ’91 or ’92 he had a brekthrough year. But I don’t think he ever topped 92.

      Having the ability to start 4 diff pitches in the sa.e spot or area reduces the amou.t of time the batter can decipher the type of pitch, especially if it comes from the same arm slot.

      What was a faatball on the outside corner for the first pitch becomes a fading changeup on the 3rd or fourth pitch if an inside cutter, fastball or curve or two is mixed in. But the batters mind rememvers the first pitch fastball especially beacause of the same location swings at the 4th pitch changeup as if it were a fastball.

      Having pinpoint controll and movement allows a pitcher/catcher to mess with the batters mind and timing.

      Someday, there will be another ‘Greg maddux with similar abilities and understanding; perhaps these are the days.

      ..

  2. Glad to see a reference to Greg Maddox. When he was drafted, I noticed that he was said to have very good command along with several different breaking pitches to go with a movement fast ball. That brought Greg M, to my mind.whose skills seemed similar. If Nola IS a decent imitation of G Maddox, we’ll be happy for years.

    The Reading staff should yield some MLB pitchers….maybe as soon as this season. I know that some here have subscribed to live video of Reading’s games. Hope thay will share their insights from watching those games.

    Thanks in advance.

  3. I view Nola to be in the Pedro Martinez mold of pitcher. Great movement, multiple pitches, excellent command and something of a power pitcher. What made Pedro different was, at his peak, he did all of these things and also threw 96-98. But at his current velocity, Nola still projects as a really good 2 or 3 – it wouldn’t surprise me if, in certain years, he pitched like a 1. He’s really solid.

  4. Wow, Roy Halladay, Greg Maddux, Jake Peavy, Pedro Martinez and Walter friggin’ Johnson. Those are some pretty optimistic comps!

    With Aiken and the draft, if the torn UCL was the only issue with him, I’d definitely say pick him. But it really seems like there was an issue with his arm that was more serious that just a UCL thing. This SI story, while pretty speculative, suggests that in order for the Astros to back out based on an MRI they must have seen something to suggest that he might not be able to be fixed by TJ surgery:

    http://www.si.com/mlb/2014/07/23/houston-astros-number-one-pick-brady-aiken-inside-story

    Seems like a great talent but an extremely high-risk pick, and the Phillies of late have not been gambling on longshots.

      1. I’m not sure he has an option at this point if he wants to play baseball for a living. He’s got no collegiate eligibility due to the screwed up situation with the Astros, and he has to work his way back from TJ surgery, which requires better infrastructure than you’re likely to get in an independent league. I guess he could spend another year rehabbing at Boras’s academy. But is he going to get a better offer after 2 years out of competitive baseball + surgery? That would test even Boras’s magical abilities.

  5. So, is that three comps to HOFers in seven comments for Nola? Not bad for a first outing.

    I kid; it was a very promising debut. I thought his breaking ball looked iffy until the one gif’d above, but if he can get all three pitches working at their full potential then nobody will be bummed that the Phillies made a “safe” pick by drafting him.

  6. Johnson is a good comp not because he’s a HOF but because they are very similar in delivery and body type. Walter Johnson: 6′ 1″ 200 lbs. Aaron Nola: 6′ 1″ 196 lbs. Both guys are also pin-point control specialists. Johnson happened to have freakishly long arms which is how he generated his power. I have no idea how long Nola’s are (Would be interesting to find out). Look I’m no expert on pitching mechanics, but to my untrained eye there are certainly similarities in the motions. Johnson seemed to plant his foot very early in his delivery and stood more upright when finishing his delivery but nonetheless I think it’s a sound comparison.

    1. You really cant compare their sizes. Johnson was called The Big Train because he was gigantic in his day. Nobody was that size that threw that harx. Nola, 100 years later, is on the smaller size.

  7. The kid who I was telling you guys about (Jason Groome, 2016) actually moved from the local area to Fl to go to IMG Academy . . Crazy to move for a kid to pitch at a glorified sports academy. He’s got a top 5 arm (top 5 pick) . . The move could actually hurt him. Being in the Northeast he couldn’t throw as much thus saving bullets but now he’ll basically be able to throw all year . . Could hurt him. I’ve learned from speaking with college coaches that the big school like to recruit top pitching from the colder regions bc they aren’t used as much and look for hitters down south where they can work on their craft all year long.

    1. Eric D,
      Former short-lived PSU QB O’Connor was a grad of IMG. Watch him in the future.
      And correct IMG Academy glorified sports ‘school’….but they bring in past professional players to tutor the youngsters in their trades.

      1. Romus thought that kid O’Connor was going to be a stud. saw him play in a allstar game. I don’t understand why he went back to Canada to play college ball. makes no sense.

        1. Not sure why either rocco…..but he was not going to start at PSU…the new coach seems to want more mobile QBs once Hack leaves next year for the NFL which seems like a good possibility.

      2. Yeah their baseball coach is Chris Sabo. My opinion is that he was perfectly fine where he was up here and committed to Vandy (even tho in my opinion he’ll never pitch a college game), I’m just being selfish since I won’t get to see him throw anymore. Never seen a HS arm like his. EVER.

    1. My comp (Pedro M.) was not, in any way, intended to say that Nola was in his class. My comp was merely to illustrate the “type” of pitcher we have in Nola. In type, Nola also has some similarities to Greg Maddux in terms of his style and approach, but he’s more of a power pitcher than Maddux.

      By the way, I don’t think Walter Johnson is a good comp even if we are just looking at styles. Johnson was a pure sidearm pitcher and he was by every description a pure power pitcher – he probably threw around 100 MPH. So, I think Nola shares very little in common with The Big Train.

      1. Ugh. I hate how every righthander in the minors that has good control/command but not stellar gas is compared to Maddox. Maddox was drafted as and in the minors was a power pitcher with advanced secondary offerings but little control/command. It wasn’t until after he was promoted to the majors and lost a couple of mph off of his fastball that he was able to become the command and control pitcher to whom every soft-tossing righty is compared.

  8. While Aiken’s upside is very good, I think the risk is just too much for us to take on right now. I really like Bregman and Swanson. Both guys have above average hit tools and could move quickly as college bats. I would really like to see us build up the farm and have some younger guys establish themselves in the big leagues before taking big risks in the draft.

    I think we need to play it safe and try to grab a prospect that can be added to Nola and JPC as guys to build around. We cannot afford to miss on a pick early in the first round. We need to select another guy who can contribute and push us towards contention. I’d rather us grab another 2-3 starter with a high possibility of making the majors than a possible #1 who has already having arm issues. We can always use prospect depth or money to acquire an ace for future rotations.

    1. Agree….I think the Phillies will look at bats in this draft. At number 10, the best pitchers may be off the board.

      And read were a pitcher after TJ has a shelf life of 8 years and/or 400 to 600 innings……which is hard to make sense of, since starters will normally give you on average 150 to 175 innings per year, so for a starter it could be from 2 years to 4 years before kaput!

      1. If last year is any indication they want someone with a fast track to The Show.

        Nola fit that perfect.

        Now this year they have the rosters set for AA and AAA. What they need are more position players. I expect the focus to be there unless someone amazing falls into their lap.

        1. I think they will go with the Best Available Player on the board at #10. If it’s a pitcher, it ain’t going to be too hard to find a place for him in a rotation at the upper levels of the minors, and given the needs of the major league club in every category, but especially starting pitching, I don’t see any reason why they would shy away from stocking up. You can never have enough quality arms, and the Mets are finding out.

          Now, once you get to Round 2 and the rest of the draft I think I probably agree with you, all other things being equal they are going to try to find some positional talent.

  9. If the top 10 is all in one group without separation then I think a pitcher may fall to the Phillies because teams are looking for offense.

    The fact that the league is so tilted in favor of pitching tells me that teams will rank hitters higher than pitchers.

  10. Zach Eflin’s stat line from his 1st game against major-league hitters: 3 innings, three hits, two strikeouts, 1 earned run, two HRs

  11. Glad the Phillies held off trading Hamels as Christian Vasquez (the catcher Boston wanted to trade to us) has a sprained right elbow which may require TJ surgery on his throwing arm.

  12. Nice write up. hope to see him and Ben Lively in June. If Nola, Lively, Franco, Crawford, Herrera and Dugan are all starters by August-September, this will have been a bearable season even if we still finish last.

Comments are closed.