When the Phillies drafted Aaron Nola in the first round of the 2014 MLB draft they expected to have a big-league ready pitcher — and they did, as the hurler made it to Philadelphia just over one year later in 2015.
From there, Nola pieced together a respectable rookie campaign going 6-2 with a 3.59 ERA the rest of the way.
Pitching more like a rookie in his second year, Nola battled injuries and inconsistency in 2016, posting a 6-9 record and 4.78 ERA.
This season, he started where he left off his sophomore campaign and as recently as June 16 a 4.76 ERA. But then he found his change up.
"My changeup ... I'm feeling consistent with it right now," Nola told the media after he used the pitch to fuel a dominating 6-1 win over the Brewers Friday. "It's evolved. I really didn't have much of a feel for my changeup [when I first came up]. It's a thing I worked on in spring training a lot this year, threw it in counts when I usually wouldn't. That's what spring training is for and I think it helped."
Nola, who turned 24 last month, has gotten better with every start it seems, which is exactly what a team wants to see from a young player. But after his impressive debut season teams got a book on him and his effectiveness plummeted.
If Nola wants to continue to pitch like an ace, he'll need to continue to adapt and harness a pro style. His performance down the stretch this season could determine whether the Phillies see him as a No. 1, or middle of the rotation starter moving forward.
"I'm real happy about the way he's come along, especially after the elbow issues," Phillies' manager Pete Mackanin said, referring to a lingering injury that forced Nola to start the season a little behind schedule. "He has increased velocity. His pitches are crisper. He's better now than before. It's really a nice jump for him to make."
In his last six starts, Nola has a 1.71 ERA and 50 strikeouts. He's held opposing hitters to a .118 batting average.