Opening Day Starter: Should It Be Nola?

images (7)Now that Spring Training is officially underway, let’s look ahead to some decisions that the Phillies must make by the start of the regular season. Of course there are roster questions–this guy makes the 25 man roster, but that guy doesn’t, and so on and so on. One guy who is a virtual lock for the 25 man roster is Aaron Nola. But where the Baton Rouge native falls in the rotation is a little bit more complicated. Sure, Nola, the 7th overall selection in the 2014 draft has the potential to be a future top-of-the-rotation guy. And it’s no secret that he’s striving to become the number one starter on the Phillies staff this year. But being the Opening Day starter can be much more than just a place in the rotation. There will be high expectations, especially for a 22 year old.

Last year, Nola posted a 3.59 ERA over 77.2 innings in 13 games. That 3.59 ERA was better than 70% of NL starters (and best on the Phillies) with at least 70 innings pitched. Now, to be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher for a competitive team–which the Phillies are hoping to be in a few years, you have to be better than above average. I understand that. But he’s 22. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to get him some experience as The Guy™.

On the flip side, if the Phillies elect to give him the top spot in the rotation after being slightly above average in 2015, maybe that would actually hurt his development. Now, I don’t take Nola to be a guy that’ll stop working his butt off once he gets a career achievement, but I always look at things with an open mind. I can’t exactly rule a scenario like that out.


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