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Aaron Nola Rumors
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).