Padres catcher Austin Nola’s season is over, manager Jayce Tingler announced to reporters (Twitter link via Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune). He’d been attempting to play through a strained ligament in his left thumb, but he’ll now undergo surgery to address the issue. He’s expected to be ready for Spring Training 2022.
Nola’ third IL stint of the season will bring his year to a premature end. San Diego acquired Nola at last summer’s trade deadline while he was amidst a breakout campaign with the Mariners. His pace fell off a little bit down the stretch, but he still entered 2021 as one of the better catchers in baseball.
When healthy, Nola continued to produce on both sides of the ball. He hit .272/.340/.376 with one of the league’s lowest strikeout rates (9.8%). That’s exactly league average offense by measure of wRC+, a significant cut above the cumulative .228/.305/.392 line managed by catchers leaguewide. And Nola rated as a slightly above-average pitch framer, per Statcast, a continuation of his career trend in that regard.
Unfortunately, a series of health woes — fractured left middle finger, left knee sprain and today’s thumb strain — limited the 31-year-old to just 194 plate appearances in 56 games this season. Getting a full season from Nola will be key for a San Diego team that’ll look to contend in 2022. A miserable second half will almost certainly keep the Friars from the postseason this year, but they’ll bring back an extremely talented core in hopes of sticking near the top of a competitive NL West. A late bloomer who didn’t make his MLB debut until his age-29 season, Nola won’t be eligible for arbitration until the end of next year and isn’t on track to reach free agency until the 2025-26 offseason.