After a disappointing month of August and beginning of September, Philadelphia Phillies RHP Aaron Nola got back on track in the team's 8-1 win over the Miami Marlins Wednesday. The 24-year-old earned his 11th win of the season, while striking out 11 and scattering just four hits across seven innings of one-run ball. He looked very much like the pitcher that flashed ace potential in the month of July, when he went 3-1 with a 1.32 ERA across five starts.
In regards to where Nola fits into the rotation in the long run, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports spoke to an anonymous Phillies official, that suggested that Nola will be near the top, but probably never at the top of the team's rotation when they are contending:
One Phillies person said he believes Aaron Nola is a “2-3” pitcher.
While the natural reaction of some may be to balk at this, if this is the view of those in the front-office, it's probably good for the team's future.
First, while the Phillies may believe Nola is capable of pitching like a No. 1 starter at times - like he did in July - he's not consistently that good. And that's fine, it motivates them to put more front-of-the-rotation starters around Nola.
The Phillies may do that sooner, rather than later. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported that the team 'poked around' on controllable starters prior to the non-waiver trade deadline. I wrote last week that while Pittsburgh Pirates RHP Gerrit Cole and Tampa Bay Rays RHP Chris Archer could fit this bill, the team should check in on (and potentially push for) Toronto Blue Jays RHP Marcus Stroman this offseason.
Though someone like Franklyn Kilome, Adonis Medina or JoJo Romero could be used in said trade, if not, they have flashed strong potential at the lower levels of the minor leagues. The organization's top prospect, RHP Sixto Sanchez, is a few years away from the majors, but looks as though he could be a legitimate ace, displaying the ability to locate pitches at a high velocity.
As far as Nola, he and the Phillies are in a much better place regarding his future than they were a season ago. A year ago, we weren't sure if Nola's body would allow him to be part of the team's long-term plans. Though he did have an early season stint on the disabled list, Nola's had a relatively healthy season, one in which he has a 3.25 FIP and and 4.0 WAR (per FanGraphs) after 25 starts.
The Phillies hope is that at the end of this decade, Nola is a No. 2 or No. 3 starter on a contending team, with an ace or two in front of him. Remember, the Phillies won a World Series with Cole Hamels as their No. 1 starter, and endured a sustained period of success in the National League with him as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter (at least in their rotation) after that.