For the first two months of the 2016 season, it certainly looked like those who used a late round pick on Philadelphia Phillies pitching prospect Aaron Nola were rewarded with a monster value play. The former 2014 first round pick (7th overall) burst out of the gates pitching like a fantasy baseball ace to the tune of a 3.55 ERA in April which was followed by a 2.31 mark in May. Even more impressive and a bit unexpected was the strikeout rate from Nola as he punched out 76 batters in those 72 innings. Unfortunately Nola couldn’t keep it going as a combination of fatigue as the innings piled up and a late elbow injury conspired to make the righty a huge liability the rest of the way as shown by a 10.42 ERA in June and a 6.30 mark in July just before his shutdown. The elbow injury was diagnosed as a sprain and no surgery was needed which was the big positive result out of that disturbing development however. Overall we have to look at Nola in a few different prisms, with almost all of them positive despite the ugly final 4.78 ERA. The first two months of 2016 showed how good a pitcher Nola can be and the 9.81 K/9 rate was ace-level. Also the 2.35 BB/9 and 0.86 HR/9 rates were both very good numbers for such a young pitcher which again speak to the vast upside here. Consider also that Nola got quite unlucky with a .334 BABIP, which is revealed in a much more impressive looking 3.07 FIP and XFIP. The bottom line here is that Nola is one of the best young pitchers in fantasy baseball and the 4.78 ERA clearly does not tell the story of how good he can be. In fact that ugly ERA can only help you at the draft table as it will keep Nola’s price down dramatically. Ignore and be aggressive here as Nola is going to be a good one.
2017 PROJECTION: 14-9 3.35 ERA 1.22 WHIP 175 K