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Coming Soon: Aaron Nola

Aaron Nola was the Phillies' top draft pick a year ago, and could finish the season in the majors if it all goes well. How does he profile for fantasy owners long-term?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Nola was drafted in the 22nd round out of high school by the Blue Jays, but didn't sign and opted to attend LSU instead. After a decent freshman year, Nola exploded onto the scene with an excellent sophomore campaign where he threw 126 innings, striking out 122, walking just 18, and a 1.57 ERA with his 12 wins. He came into his draft year viewed as the #5 college prospect according to Baseball America, and did little to dissuade that notion with his performance. He threw 10 less innings in 2014, but struck out 134 this time and posted another minuscule ERA (1.47) to go with another 11 wins.

The Phillies took Nola with the 7th overall pick in the draft, and took little time in getting him signed. He agreed quickly to a bonus of $3.3 million, and was sent straight to the Phillies' High-A affiliate in Clearwater. He made seven starts there by the end of July, and was promoted by the organization to finish the year with AA Reading. Overall, Nola threw a total of 55 innings over his 12 starts, striking out 45 and walking 10 overall.

He did not receive an invite to major league spring training, in part because the team did not anticipate him competing for a rotation spot in the spring. With that in mind though, he was called on to make one start against the Yankees toward the end of the spring, and pitched well. He threw three shutout innings that day, striking out four including Yankees' DH Alex Rodriguez.

He returned to Reading this year, and is likely the best pitching prospect in a very strong rotation there with new acquisitions Ben Lively, Zack Eflin, Tom Windle, and the returning Jesse Biddle. So far he's made just one start with the season being less than a week old, going 4+ innings while allowing four earned runs and nine baserunners.

Nola stands 6'1 and weighs 195 lbs, which isn't considered ideal for a pitcher, but doesn't necessarily come with the same concerns you see of pitchers who fall below the 6' line of demarcation. Nola throws from a 3/4 arm slot that, when viewed, reminds me a lot of A.J. Burnett from a visual standpoint. The delivery is easy and fluid, and can help Nola with its' deceptiveness when it is consistent. There are some concerns about his height affecting his potential success as it relates to his arm slot, but he gets high marks on both his makeup and competitiveness, and has an advanced feel for pitching that should help offset some of those concerns until we see more success as a professional.

He features three pitches, and has shown excellent command of all three in college and so far as a professional. His fastball is considered a potential plus offering that sits in the low-90's, and reports before he signed noted that it could hit 95-96 on a semi-regular basis. He also throws a breaking ball which seems to vary between a curveball and a slider depending on which report you read, and when you see the pitch. Most have it as a curveball, but multiple reports note that it tends to be a bit faster than you'd expect and doesn't necessarily move in the same downward manner you'd anticipate from a curve. Either way, the pitch can be downright nasty when it is on, getting a ton of movement and will likely help to provide a solid strikeout total for fantasy owners. His third pitch, a changeup, is considered a potential above-average offering, but needs work to get to that potential. His command helps all of his pitches out, and should also help with his ratios out of the rotation.

The overall profile with Nola looks like a potential workhorse for fantasy owners. He gets knocked down a bit in rankings because his overall ceiling isn't as high as a number of pitching prospects. He's not expected to provide the 200+ strikeouts you'd want to lead the top of your pitching staff, but should still settle in nicely as a mid-rotation type who throws a lot of innings, limits his walks very well, and provides around 7-7.5 strikeouts per 9 innings. There are some things for Nola to work on in the minors, but he's not expected to need a lot of time down there, and I would anticipate a call up by the end of the season. The profile isn't as awe-inspiring as some pitching prospects, but with a fairly high floor, is one of the safer ones in the minors right now.