Phillies need Aaron Nola to pitch like a true ace in 2021
By Colin Newby
A Look Around the National League East
Nola is a quality starting pitcher in the major leagues, but he is not currently at the level of the game’s elite. The NL East, considered by many to be the best division in baseball, is home to top-level starters that Nola will need to match if the Phillies plan to contend for the division.
DeGrom is arguably the best starting pitcher in the game. He followed up consecutive NL Cy Youngs in 2018 and 2019 with another stellar performance in the shortened 2020 campaign, finishing with an ERA below 2.50 for the third consecutive season. He is a core piece for a revamped Mets team promising to provide stiff competition for the Phillies.
Nationals starter Max Scherzer is not considered to be in his prime at age 35, but he is a successful veteran starter who has pitched at an elite level for prolonged periods in his big league career and is more than capable of taking the ball in a big game for the Nats.
In 2020, Scherzer ended his seven-year streak finishing in the top five of his respective leagues’ Cy Young voting. However, many expect a strong rebound now that the 60 game stretch is behind him.
Atlanta Braves starters Mike Soroka, Max Fried, and Charlie Morton bring legitimate depth to the Braves rotation. While none of the three pitchers distance themselves from Nola’s caliber, the Braves can also rival the top end of the Phillies rotation.
The Miami Marlins don’t boast the same talent level as their division opponents, but their starting rotation holds the potential to give the Phillies future headaches throughout the development of young starters Sixto Sanchez and Sandy Alcantara.
The Phillies don’t need Nola to win the NL Cy Young this season or to pitch at the level of deGrom. However, they need him to pitch consistently like a legitimate frontend of the rotation pitcher from start to finish.
The “ace” of the Phillies staff will need to be able to handle top competition in big games down the stretch if the team has hopes to win the division.