Phillies Big Question: Is Aaron Nola Just Hype?

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Apr 16, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola (27) gathers himself as Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the fifth inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 16, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola (27) gathers himself as Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the fifth inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Philadelphia Phillies top 2014 draft choice is a starting pitcher who is now going through the most difficult stretch of his career.

Aaron Nola was the Philadelphia Phillies first round draft pick two years ago in the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft as the seventh pick overall.

His selection gave baseball fans in the city of Philadelphia something to look forward to during our rebuilding period. After much initial success, Nola’s performance of late could lead some to believe that he may have been just hype.

Nola was originally taken by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft. The right-hander chose instead to attend Louisiana State University to pitch for his home-state Tigers.

During an outstanding collegiate career with LSU, Nola had a 30-6 record with an ERA of just 2.09 and 345 strikeouts. You could see why the Phillies were excited to select him.

Nola began his Phillies career in 2014 with the Clearwater Threshers and quickly moved up through the minor league system. By the middle of the 2015 season he was pitching for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.

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With the Phillies’ AAA affiliates, Nola had a 3-1 record with a 3.86 ERA, which got him promoted to the majors just more than a year after he had been drafted.

Nola made 13 starts for the Phillies last season and produced a 6-2 record, 68 strikeouts, and a 3.59 ERA. Phillies management believed he was capable of staying in the big leagues and being an integral part of their 2016 starting rotation. He even was being considered for the opening day starter honors in Cincinnati, and was ultimately given the start in the team’s home opener.

Nola has been less than impressive this season. He is not the pitcher the fans were expecting to see. After 16 starts thus far, Nola has just a 5-7 record. His last four outings have been particularly disastrous: an 0-4 mark during which his ERA is 15.23, he has allowed 32 hits in 13 innings with a 14/7 K:BB. He failed to even reach the 5th inning in any of those four starts.

The only other losing season that he has suffered between his college and pro careers came in 2014 when he was pitching for High-A Clearwater when his record was 2-3. So what is happening this season?

Nola’s ERA of 4.45 ranks just 36th among National League starting pitchers. He has given up 94 hits with 45 earned runs. He has been able to keep the numbers to that level largely thanks to his only having allowed nine home runs.

So, is Nola just hype? Some may say that it’s his first full season in the majors, the opposing players and scouts have seen something on him they can exploit, and he simply has to adjust back. That a normal part of a player’s developmental process at the highest level.

Some may say he’s under a lot of pressure due to being the Phillies first round pick. However, those are simply excuses if his struggles continue much longer.

The now 23-year old put up fantastic numbers in college and in the minors, and in his big league rookie debut a year ago. Why can’t he produce these numbers now in the majors? Is he hurt? Is he worn out already? Only time will tell the answers.

So far, Nola has let fans of the Philadelphia Phillies down with his 2016 performance. Hopefully, he comes back during the second half of the season and shows the type of pitching everyone is expecting, or any Nola Era in Philadelphia may prove short-lived.

Next: Phillies Rally to Dump Dbacks

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