Right-hander Aaron Nola finished 2013 on a roll, pitching Louisiana State to the College World Series and ending his sophomore season without giving up an earned run in his final 26 2/3 innings. He has extended that streak to 40 2/3 innings after a pair of scoreless seven-inning starts this year, further establishing his reputation as the most refined college pitching prospect in this year's Draft.
Nola dominated Virginia Tech on Friday, requiring just 87 pitches to cruise through seven hitless innings in a 9-0 victory. He threw 55 strikes, fanned eight and allowed just two baserunners, one on an error and one on a walk. No LSU pitcher ever has thrown a nine-inning no-hitter, but Tigers coach Paul Mainieri told reporters after the game that he wasn't going to let Nola work more than seven innings this early in the season.
Nola isn't physically imposing at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, and he doesn't light up radar guns. He operated at 90-93 mph against the Hokies, typical velocity for him. Nola's fastball plays up, however, because he locates it so well and gets a ton of sink by throwing from a low three-quarters angle.
Some scouts don't love Nola's delivery, which features a high elbow in the back and comes around into a low slot. But it works for him, giving him life and deception on his pitches without costing him command. Nola also has one of the better changeups in the Draft and can throw his breaking ball for strikes, and both offerings worked well against Virginia Tech.
"He's the same as he was last year," a national crosschecker said. "He pitches in the 90-92 range with advanced polish, pitches to both sides of the plate and gets a lot of bad contact. His breaking ball keeps guys honest and I think his changeup will be better in pro ball because he'll use it more often.
"I have a hard time imagining there's a better pitcher out there with a better combination of polish and stuff. I think he'll be a fast mover who gets to the big leagues quick."