Phillies draft LSU righthander

ASSOCIATED PRESS LSU's Aaron Nola , two-time SEC pitcher of the year, was 11-1 with a 1.47 ERA this season.
ASSOCIATED PRESS LSU's Aaron Nola , two-time SEC pitcher of the year, was 11-1 with a 1.47 ERA this season.
Posted: June 06, 2014

AS MARTI WOLEVER sees it, the Phillies don't need to project much regarding Aaron Nola, their best-slotted first-round draft pick since Gavin Floyd in 2001.

"There's something to say about having 'Now' stuff," said Wolever, the Phillies' assistant general manager in charge of amateur scouting. "And that's what Aaron Nola has. Aaron Nola has 'Now' stuff."

The Phillies last night made Nola, a 6-1 righthanded pitcher out of LSU, the seventh overall pick in MLB's First-Year Player Draft, which continues today and concludes tomorrow. Nola, the two-time SEC pitcher of the year, was 11-1 with a 1.47 ERA in 16 starts this season as a junior.

Once he signs, Nola immediately will become one of the Phillies' top pitching prospects. He likely will start his professional career in Single A Clearwater but could be major league-ready in just a couple years.

"I'm excited. Ecstatic," Nola said by phone from LSU's baseball stadium, where he watched the draft in a team lounge with friends and family. "It's an honor to be in the organization and I'm ready to get started with everything."

Wolever said Nola "was a guy we kind of targeted all along" and lauded the 21-year-old's makeup and competitiveness. Nola's best pitch is his fastball, which he commands well and typically registers in the low-to-mid 90s. Throwing out of a deceptive, low, three-quarters arm slot, he also throws a slider and a changeup.

"He had the best control of any pitcher I've been around," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "On top of that, he had the intangibles. He had a little something extra that allowed him to raise his game to something a little extra when he needed to the most."

The Phillies, Wolever said, had anywhere from one to four representatives at each of Nola's starts this season and he was the top collegiate pitcher on the organization's draft board. Nola, one of three finalists for the Golden Spikes Award given to the nation's top college player, struck out 134 batters while walking just 27 over 116 1/3 innings and helped LSU advance to the NCAA Regionals. In his starts, the Tigers went 15-1.

"It's extremely important to be a winner," Wolever said. "I think you have to have the ability to achieve everything that you should be and could be. And Aaron Nola's got that and I think he's proven it on every stage the last 3 years at LSU. To pitch here and to pitch well and to put us back at a championship caliber, we need guys like this. I just think he's made the right way."

The selection of Nola ended a streak of seven consecutive first-round or compensatory-round picks taken by the Phillies straight out of high school. The last collegiate player they drafted in the first round was Joe Savery (Rice) in 2007. Philadelphia's previous two top picks, righthander Shane Watson and shortstop J.P. Crawford, both came from Lakewood High School in Southern California.

No first-round picks made by the Phillies since 2002 (Cole Hamels) currently play for the major league club.

Shortly after 7 p.m., the Astros made lefthander Brady Aiken (Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego) the No. 1 overall pick. The Marlins then surprised many by selecting righthander Tyler Kolek (Shepherd High School in Texas) over lefthander Carlos Rodon (North Carolina State), who the White Sox took at No. 3.

When the Cubs took Indiana catcher Kyle Schwarber at No. 4, it meant there was a pretty good shot Nola would drop to No. 7. The Twins drafted shortstop Nick Gordon, the son of former Phillies reliever Tom Gordon, at No. 5 and with the sixth pick the Mariners selected catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson from Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, Hamels' alma mater.

"I'm going to give it my all," said Nola, whose older brother, Austin, is a shortstop in the Marlins organization. "I'm going to do the best that I can to help them out and try to move up as quick as I can."

With their second-round pick, 47th overall, the Phillies drafted 6-5 lefthander Matt Imhof from Cal Poly, who Wolever said throws a plus-fastball and an average to above-average breaking ball out of a deceptive delivery.

Imhof, whose 124 strikeouts in 99 1/3 innings ranked sixth in NCAA Division I this season, projects as a middle- to back-of-the-rotation starter, according to Wolever. Over all, Imhof was 10-4 with a 2.45 ERA this past spring as a junior.

"He's got a chance to go through [the minor league system] a little quicker,'' Wolever said. "Not probably as quickly as Nola, but he throws strikes and he commands the strike zone, so that certainly works to his advantage.''

Rounds No. 3 through No. 10 are held today, with the Phillies first picking 81st overall. For the rest of the draft - rounds No. 11 through No. 40 take place tomorrow - the Phillies pick seventh in each round.

On Twitter: @jakemkaplan

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