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Aaron Nola Rumors
Ben Revere‘s name has begun to surface in trade rumors, but the speedy outfielder tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he isn’t fazed by seeing his name floated as a trade candidate. Revere says that the talk isn’t distracting, characterizing it as something that every player has to deal with at some point. (I’d imagine that having been traded once in the past has prepared him somewhat as well.) “This is a business,” Revere says. “When [Cody] Asche and [Domonic Brown] come back we’re going to have a lot of outfielders and someone might be out. I just have to prepare to help my team win whether it’s here or somewhere else. Just bust my tail and try to stay in the lineup.” Salisbury adds that he, like others, hears that the Angels have indeed discussed Revere with the Phillies.
Some more Phillies notes…
- Continuing to play Ryan Howard and Chase Utley could actually help the Phillies’ rebuild, opines MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. Zolecki points out that in mid-April, fans wanted Howard to be benched, if not released, but he’s hitting .292/.346/.615 with eight homers in 27 games dating back to April 21. By demonstrating that level of production, Zolecki notes, Howard can only have helped his trade value. The same could eventually be said of Utley, who is struggling badly this year. The Phils have little to lose by continuing to run Utley out there, however, he argues. The club will have plenty of time to see Cesar Hernandez play in the coming years, and Utley isn’t blocking a top-tier prospect. While some are worried about triggering Utley’s vesting option, Zolecki notes that if he’s still hitting well below .200 come July, the team can very easily alter that pace in the second half of the season.
- General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and president Pat Gillick were on hand for yesterday’s Double-A Reading game, writes Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News, and the two saw a masterful performance by 2014 first-round pick Aaron Nola. The Phillies’ top decision-makers saw Nola fire seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits and a walk against seven strikeouts in an effort that dropped his ERA to 1.54 through 52 2/3 innings. However, Amaro said that the team is not yet ready to give Nola a look at the Major League level, Lawrence writes. “There are some things he needs to work on still,” said Amaro. “There’s some areas he’s continuing to work on. We continue to discuss and put together a plan for him. We’re in the middle of formulating that plan.” Amaro wouldn’t say what specific areas Nola needed to improve, but the GM did say that it was certainly within the realm of possibility that Nola would pitch in the Major Leagues this season.
In a draft class that featured several high-quality pitchers at the top, LSU ace Aaron Nola was viewed as one of the very best and universally regarded as the most major league ready of any of them. Scouts were impressed by Nola’s poise, maturity, and (perhaps most importantly) his pinpoint accuracy and multiple teams in the top ten were connected to the hurler, but the Phillies were the club that pounced at No. 7. Back in June, Nola spoke with MLBTR as a part of of our Draft Prospect Q&A series. Recently, we checked in with Nola as he was gearing up for the 2015, a season that could see his big league debut.
Zach Links: When the Phillies drafted you last summer, there was immediately talk of you quickly making a path to the big leagues since you were so polished. Did the Phillies indicate to you last summer that you could be bumped up to the majors rather quickly?
Aaron Nola: They didn’t really say exactly that. They didn’t really say much in terms of that. For me, the way I look at it is, whenever they want me up, its their call. Wherever they put me, my focus is going to be where I am and play to to the best of my ability.
ZL: Some folks were surprised that the Phillies didn’t have you in major league camp for the entirety of the spring. Were you expecting to be in big league camp for the whole thing, as opposed to just a bit at the end?
AN: They just told me that they were going to send me to minor league camp and I was okay with that. I had fun, I had a good time.
I knew a lot of guys there and there’s a good group of guys there and it was pretty cool pitching against the Yankees that one time. I was around guys in the clubhouse and getting to watch what they do and how they play the game, it was a really good and really educational experience.
ZL: Alex Rodriguez offered up some really high praise after facing you in spring training, telling reporters (including Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News), that you had a “good arm” and “a bright future” that “the Phillies should be very excited” about. [Nola allowed a single to Rodriguez in their first meeting, but struck him out with a changeup the next time around.] What was your reaction to that?
AN: I was just thinking that was pretty cool. We all know what he’s done in his career, he’s an unbelievable player and just watching him step in the box and the battle going on, it was surreal. Growing up we were just watching that guy on TV all the time and I was always hoping that one day I would pitch against him, so that was pretty cool.
ZL: Did you have any jitters when he stepped into the box?
AN: Maybe a little bit. I wasn’t too nervous coming in because it wasn’t the first time I pitched in front of a crowd like that. We pitched in front of some huge crowds at LSU. If there were any butterflies, they went away when I stepped on the mound because everything felt normal for me. I think some minor jitters sometimes are good, in a way.
ZL: The Phillies landed you at No. 7 but there were a number of teams connected to you, including the Twins at No. 5. Did you see the Phillies as your most likely landing spot on draft week, or did you see anyone else as the frontrunner?
AN: I just kind of told myself at that point that I was focused on my season at LSU and the games we were playing at that time. At that point, I was blessed and honored to be in that situation, to know that I’d probably be called in the first round wherever I go. I couldn’t control any of that, and I didn’t know where I’d end up when I was watching on TV.
It was an honor that the Phillies picked me, that day is something that I’ll always cherish and remember.
ZL: How has your daily preparation changed from this time last year to today? What kinds of things do the Phillies have you doing differently?
AN: I’m not doing anything different, really. What the Phillies have me doing is pretty much what I’ve done before. The only difference I’m pitching more often. I’m getting out on the mound more and more and I’m pretty accustomed to that at this point.
ZL: When we spoke last year, there were some scouting reports questioning your 3/4 arm slot. Have the Phillies tinkered with that at all?
AN: No they have not. It’s the same slot I’ve always done. I’ve never thrown a pitch another way and always thrown in that arm slot.
ZL: The Phillies were zeroed in on their veterans for a long time and playing for the here and now, but they seem to be focused on building on younger talent now. Are you excited to be part of the youth movement in Philly?
AN: Everyone there, they’re all great guys and I got to know them really well, or at least have good relationships with them. I’ve been hanging out with them a lot this year and I can tell you that they play the game the right way and work really hard.
I think those guys are great and their stars have been at the top of the game for years. They have had unbelievable careers and I don’t know what is going to happen but they’re working so hard this spring. I’m excited to work my way up to that level and play alongside them.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro “covets” Padres righty Andrew Cashner, according to Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan (via Twitter). San Diego has been rumored to be one of the teams looking at a trade for Cole Hamels, so it’s fair to speculate that Cashner’s name has probably come up in discussions between the two teams. The Padres were reportedly open to offers for Cashner, Ian Kennedy and Tyson Ross earlier this winter if one of those starters would bring back a top hitter in return, though the Friars subsequently added several significant lineup pieces without giving up any of their rotation-heading trio. Passan notes that the Padres aren’t one of the teams on Hamels’ no-trade list.
Here’s some more from the City of Brotherly Love…
- Phillies chairman David Montgomery gave Amaro a vote of confidence in an interview on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (hat tip to MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki), calling Amaro “a pretty quality guy in that [GM] role.” Amaro is entering the last year of his contract with the team, and the Phillies’ ownership group as a whole is “looking at this closely as well” to determine if Amaro will continue in Philadelphia. “If Pat [Gillick] spends an entire year or two close with Ruben, I think he’ll have a very good idea to how effective Ruben is, and collectively a decision will be made,” Montgomery said.
- Aaron Nola won’t be invited to the Phillies’ Major League Spring Training camp, Amaro tells CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. “He’s not one of those kids that we need to see mature or develop mentally. We think that he’s got other things he needs to work on on the field, other parts of the game that he needs to continue to work on,” Amaro said. “He’ll get into minor-league camp and get into the program there and it will be good for him and when he’s ready to come to the big leagues, he’ll come to the big leagues.” Nola, the seventh overall pick of the 2014 draft, is projected to begin the season at Double-A and Amaro didn’t rule out that the righty could reach the bigs in 2015, calling Nola “a fast-track guy and there’s a reason why.”
- From that same piece, Amaro also expressed confidence in Jesse Biddle, whose stock as a top-100 prospect dropped after a rough 2014 season. Biddle received an invite to the big league Spring Training camp, though Amaro said that the southpaw will eventually be sent to the minors camp and “likely in Double-A” to start the season.
Mets right-hander Jeremy Hefner received awful news after experiencing discomfort in his third rehab outing last week. Via Adam Rubin of ESPN New York (Twitter link), Hefner has a fracture in his elbow and will have to undergo his second Tommy John operation of the past year. The 28-year-old has spent the past year recovering from TJ and will now likely miss most, if not all of the 2015 campaign as well. MLBTR wishes Hefner the best of luck and a full recovery in the next round of rehab.
Here are some more links from baseball’s Eastern divisions…
- Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles aren’t interested in bringing back longtime second baseman Brian Roberts, who was recently released by the Yankees (Twitter link).
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post examines the Yankees‘ midseason rentals — Stephen Drew, Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy — and wonders if any of the three will be back with the team in 2015 (and beyond). As Sherman notes, the final months of the season will serve as an audition for each player, and each could have a logical spot on the roster. Drew could replace the retiring Derek Jeter, Headley could handle third base when Alex Rodriguez DHs, and McCarthy can serve as valuable rotation depth given the uncertainty surrounding New York’s internal options.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he’s looking for rotation depth following the trade of Roberto Hernandez and the injury to Cliff Lee. That desire led to the claim of Jerome Williams, but it sounds as if the Phils could be on the lookout for other cheap additions that could help them beyond the 2014 season. Salisbury notes that 2014 first-round pick Aaron Nola is not under consideration for a jump to the Majors.
- Within that same piece, Salisbury also speculates that the Tigers and Phillies could reboot their previous trade talks for Jonathan Papelbon due to Joe Nathan‘s recent struggles and Joakim Soria‘s injury (he is on the DL with an oblique strain). Amaro tells Salisbury that the two sides haven’t talked trade recently, but he does acknowledge that he spoke with the Tigers “particularly about the bullpen.” Antonio Bastardo was thought to be a Tigers target at one point, but as Salisbury notes, Bastardo was placed on waivers earlier this month. While no reports surfaced of him being claimed, it’s highly unlikely that he would clear, given that he had a mere $600K or so of his 2014 salary remaining at the time he was placed on waivers.
- One more note from Salisbury, as he reports that Amaro said it’s “possible” that top prospect Maikel Franco will receive a September call-up. An earlier promotion is unlikely for Franco, per Amaro, but there’s little doubt that he’s impressed as of late. While Franco struggled with the jump to Triple-A to open the season, he’s mashed since July 1, hitting .338/.360/.564 in 139 plate appearances.
4:08pm: Nola will receive the full slot bonus of $3.3MM and change, tweets Jim Callis of MLB.com.
1:08pm: The Phillies announced that they have agreed to terms with right-hander Aaron Nola, whom they selected out of Louisiana State with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft. Terms of the deal have yet to be reported, but the assigned pick value is $3,300,900, according to Baseball America. Nola was advised by and is now represented by Paragon Sports International.
Nola, considered by some to be the most polished collegiate pitcher in the 2014 draft class, was a consensus Top 10 talent and generated some buzz within the Top 5 leading up to the draft as well. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com ranked Nola sixth among draft prospects, while Baseball America pegged him seventh and Keith Law of ESPN.com ranked him ninth.
In his Junior season at LSU, Nola completely dominated the competition, pitching to an 11-1 record with a 1.47 ERA and a 134-to-27 K/BB ratio in 116 1/3 innings of work. He surrendered just 12 extra-base hits this season (eight doubles, four homers) and held opponents to a minuscule .172 batting average.
Mayo and Callis noted that Nola has “exquisite command” of a three-pitch mix and “effortlessly” sits at 91 to 93 mph with his fastball, also featuring a sometimes-plus changeup and a breaking ball that can both be thrown for strikes. BA has Nola sitting 93 to 94 mph with his fastball and touching 95 while commanding both sides of the plate with some of the best command in the college class. BA also calls Nola “one of the safest bets in the class.” Law’s early scouting report expressed some concern about Nola’s three-quarter arm slot but noted that it does “give right-handed hitters fits” and generate a good deal of ground-balls.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
MLBTR is re-launching its Draft Prospect Q&A series this season in order to give our readers a look at some of the top names on the board in this year’s draft. MLBTR will be chatting with some of the draft’s most well-regarded prospects over the next couple of weeks as they prepare for the 2014 draft on June 5-7.
This season, LSU powered their way to the Regional Final round of the NCAA Tournament thanks in large part to the pitching performances of ace Aaron Nola. While the Tigers were eliminated on Monday night by Houston, the 6’2″, 195 pound right-hander is on the verge of realizing his lifelong dream in Thursday night’s draft. Nola has probably been baseball’s most dominant pitcher over the last two seasons and appears to be a lock for the top ten.
With a laser-guided 95 mph fastball, a plus curveball, and an ever-improving changeup, Nola pitched to a 1.57 ERA with 8.71 K/9 and 1.29 BB/9 in his sophomore season. For an encore, he followed that up with a 1.47 ERA, an even stronger 10.37 K/9, and a still stingy 2.09 BB/9 in 2014. In short, Nola has been absolutely stellar over the last two years for the Tigers and is viewed as one of the most surefire talents in this year’s class.
It’s safe to say that Nola is more familiar with the draft process than 99% of prospects out there. The righty was picked by the Blue Jays in 2011 and watched his brother Austin, a talented shortstop, get drafted twice before signing with the Marlins, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2012 draft. Reportedly being advised by Joe Longo of Paragon Sports, Nola is ranked No. 6 by MLB.com, No. 7 by Baseball America, and No. 10 by ESPN.com’s Keith Law. On Tuesday, Nola took time out of his busy schedule to talk with MLBTradeRumors about his impressive body of work and what he’ll bring to the table at the major league level:
Brady Aiken and Carlos Rodon have been mentioned the most frequently as potential options for the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, but CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman expands on a rumor that has been picking up steam that could have the Astros cutting a deal with high school shortstop Nick Gordon (brother of Dee Gordon and son of Tom Gordon) in order to spend more heavily elsewhere. Heyman notes that it could very well be just a rumor, but it’s “stirring intrigue in baseball circles.” It wouldn’t be the first time that Houston cut a deal at 1-1, as just two years ago they elected to select Carlos Correa in order to later sign Lance McCullers Jr. and Rio Ruiz to over-slot deals. One agent tells Heyman that he thinks Houston will look to cut a deal, with a second agent telling him the Astros are “all about the deal” and rival executives expressing that they simply can’t even guess what the Astros and GM Jeff Luhnow will do.
Here are several more draft-related links with the draft less than one week away…
- ESPN’s Keith Law tweets that he didn’t buy the Gordon/Astros rumor when he first heard it, and he’s still not a believer.
- Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel tweets that the Gordon rumor is still alive and adds another to the mix, noting that the Blue Jays could reach and select Virginia righty Nick Howard as high as No. 11, while several other teams in the teens are kicking the tires on Howard. That would be quite the reach in comparison to the rankings of Howard by MLB.com (No. 75) and Law (No. 59). Baseball America is more bullish on Howard, ranking him 25th among draft prospects.
- Law appeared with ESPN’s Buster Olney on today’s Baseball Tonight Podcast to discuss a host of draft-related topics (Law appears from the 23:00 mark to the 45:00 mark). Law began by sharing a great deal from his experience with the Blue Jays’ front office, including the inner workings of a draft room, the unheralded successes of some area scouts and the change in decision-making processes as the draft progresses into the later rounds.
- Law also broke down the top of his most recent mock draft. In discussing the No. 5 pick (he has Gordon going to the Twins), he notes that Minnesota seems to be down to Gordon or LSU right-hander Aaron Nola. Law adds that he was on-hand for Nola’s most recent SEC start and saw executives from teams “from No. 2 on down,” including Marlins GM Dan Jennings, White Sox VP Kenny Williams and Cubs GM Jed Hoyer. Law says the Twins have been targeting Gordon “all spring.”
- Law feels that if Aiken, Rodon and Kolek are all off the board, the Cubs will cut a deal at No. 4 and turn around to “crush pitching” with their next several picks. He currently has them selecting Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto, who brings an element of plate discipline that their current top prospects lack. He adds that he could also see them cutting a deal with Nola, though he sees Nola as more of a mid-rotation starter (that could be in the bigs in a year’s time) than an ace.
- The White Sox selection of Kolek is “the lock” of the top five picks, says Law. He also adds that Marlins ownership has pushed strongly for Rodon due to his proximity to the Majors and marketability as a Cuban-American left-hander. Law calls his slider the best overall pitch in the draft. (Note that these bullets are a very brief summary, and those with heavy interest in the MLB draft will consider the Olney/Law segment time well spent upon listening to it in its entirety.)
For those interested in seeking to understand the root of the elbow injuries that have plagued the game this year, you’ll want to take a look at this position statement from the American Sports Medicine Institute (hat tip to Peter Gammons). The statement closely ties professional ligament injuries to risky throwing patterns in amateur baseball, including over-use, throwing while fatigued, and pitching year-round. Latin American pitchers have experienced a similar incidence of TJ as have their North American counterparts, the statement also says.
Here are some more notes from around the game:
- As the search for a new commissioner picks up steam, sitting commish Bud Selig said today that it was possible that a successor could come from outside the game, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark reports. “That’s a judgment call,” said Selig. “I know there’s been a lot of speculation in some stories. But that’s a judgment call this group will have to make. Understanding the culture of the sport is very important.” He emphasized that it “has to be an inclusive process,” though “people will have to make their own judgments on whether or not you want to stay inside baseball.”
- A familiar trio of the pitchers sits at the top of the most recent mock draft of ESPN.com’s Keith Law (Insider link). In that scenario, Law sees the Cubs looking to strike a below-slot deal with a player like college outfielder Michael Conforto with the fourth overall choice. Some well-regarded prep arms could fall into the sandwich and second round, Law notes, where teams that saved on their first picks will pick them with intentions of spending over slot.
- Attempting to approach the top ten picks of the draft as if he were the general manager making the final call, ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider link). While clubs often say they just want the best player available, Bowden says that few follow through with that. Clubs do draft with their needs (even at the major league level) in mind, says Bowden, in addition to financial, medical, and makeup considerations. Carrying through on his general observations, Bowden sends Evansville lefty Kyle Freeland to the Twins with the fifth overall pick and LSU righty Aaron Nola to the Phillies in the seven slot.
Baseball America has expanded its 2014 Draft Database to include the Top 200 names on the board, with high school left-hander Brady Aiken topping the list, followed by high school right-hander Tyler Kolek, NC State left-hander Carlos Rodon, high school catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson and Evansville left-hander Kyle Freeland. The list of names and video on each player is available for free to the public, while scouting reports require a subscription that is highly recommended for draft enthusiasts.
Here’s some more draft-related news…
- In BA’s latest Mock Draft, Rodon is now projected to slide to the White Sox with the No. 3 pick. As John Manuel explains, there is some concern over Rodon’s usage at the end of the season, including the decision to allow him to return to the mound after a 75-minute rain delay. NC State did not use him on three days’ rest with its season on the line in its final game, either. Manuel spoke to one executive who said, “The $6 million question is whether or not he is athletic enough to start long-term. Some guys think he is, but other guys aren’t so sure and think he may wind up a reliever. It just seems like there isn’t a $6 million player in this draft.” BA’s latest mock draft is available to the public without a subscription.
- Within that mock draft, Manuel notes that president Theo Epstein was part of a Cubs contingent that scouted Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost in last weekend’s Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. If Rodon doesn’t fall to the Cubs at No. 4, the team could sign Pentecost to a money-saving deal that would allow them to spend more in the later portions of the draft. BA’s current projection is for that very scenario to play out.
- Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reported last night (via Twitter) that Astros GM Jeff Luhnow attended Aiken’s most recent outing on Monday before heading to Japan with director of pro scouting Kevin Goldstein.
- BA’s Aaron Fitt writes that Louisiana State right-hander Aaron Nola is “clearly college baseball’s best pitcher” and feels that he should reach the Major Leagues relatively quickly after being drafted. Fitt recaps Nola’s most recent start, noting that his fastball sat 95-96 mph when he got into a first-inning jam then settled in at 92-94 mph through the eighth inning. He also features a 79-81 mph slider that gives right-handers fits when thrown inside and an 83-84 mph changeup that generates grounders versus lefties. Nola has dominated the nation’s best conference for two years running, writes Fitt. He is universally regarded as a Top 10 pick in the upcoming draft.
- From that same piece, Fitt reports that at least five GMs were on-hand to see surefire first-rounder Tyler Beede (Vanderbilt) turn in an underwhelming performance. Beede’s command issues have caused his draft stock to slip this season, and he did little to help that perception with his latest outing. Though he set down the first seven he faced, he opened the fifth inning with three straight walks. After escaping unharmed, he opened the sixth with a walk and would later hit a pair of batters to open the seventh.
- ESPN’s Keith Law tweeted yesterday that the White Sox were in heavy on Nola’s start in the SEC Tournament, as Kenny Williams Jr. and owner Jerry Reinsdorf were on-hand to watch his outing. On a similar note, 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson reports that the Twins had VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff and top national crosschecker Tim O’Neil on-hand for Nola’s start (Twitter link).