Sounds like we’ll get the rare treat of back-to-back big league debuts for a couple of impressive young pitchers– one, albeit, far more heralded than the other– at the Rogers Centre this week, as it appears that Kevin Gausman’s debut tonight for the Orioles will be followed tomorrow by Sean Nolin’s first taste of the big leagues for the Jays.
As early as last night word was getting out that Nolin had been scratched from his start today for New Hampshire. In fact, Nolin himself admitted he’d been bumped to Friday:
— Sean Nolin (@Sean_Nolin) May 23, 2013
Friday was to be Marcus Stroman’s next start for the Fisher Cats, but he was pushed back as well.
“New Hampshire now listing Nolin for Friday and Stroman Saturday meaning
#bluejays can delay making Fri. start decision until later,” tweeted Richard Griffin this morning. He added, however, that there’s a decent reason to think Nolin may be getting the call– that is, beyond the fact that nominal fifth starter Stephen Chadwick Jenkins hasn’t pitched since May 12th:
Why might #bluejays choose LH Sean Nolin over RH Chad Jenkins Friday? O;s splits vs. LH-starters .243Avg .697OPS vs. RHS .277Avg .795OPS
— Richard Griffin (@RGriffinStar) May 23, 2013
Eventually, though there has still been no official word from the club, because a roster spot would need to be created to add Nolin, Shi Davidi went ahead and tweeted that the left-handers big league debut on Friday is “expected,” and followed it up with a piece on Nolin for Sportsnet.
So… who is Sean Nolin?
Nolin is just ten starts behind where Henderson Alvarez was when he first got the call to the Majors– at 88 innings deep into his New Hampshire career, a whopping number compared to Hutchison’s 31.2 over six starts at the level– so it’s not entirely crazy to believe that he could be the club’s real sixth starter. Parks sees him as close, suggesting that “Nolin looks to be on the fast-track, and if he performs well at the Double-A level, he could reach the majors at some point during the season. Some sources think his arsenal is on the way up, especially if the slider develops into a consistent plus offering.”
We’re told that his stuff “doesn’t need major grade jumps” to compete at the highest level, and while he lacks a “high-end out pitch,” he spent 2012 “maturing with each start at the High-A level,” and has the look of a number three starter– and a close one at that.
Nolin got a late start on the Fisher Cats season due to injury, but he’s certainly looked good enough for Double-A, striking out 16 and walking five in 15.1 innings over three starts, allowing just two earned runs. Scarily, though, he’d have had even less Double-A experience than Hutchison, if he really is on his way up.
Marc Hulet of FanGraphs wrote about having watch Nolin’s May 12th start earlier this week, and by his eyes, the pitcher still seemed to be a bit rusty from his injury layoff.
“His full windup lacked fluidity in the first inning but got better as the game went on,” he wrote. “Early on, the left-handed pitcher struggled with his fastball command and the opposing hitters were having some really good hacks on his offerings. He was also not throwing his curveball for strikes on a consistent basis. The good news is that those issues should be correctable.”
He adds that, as the mechanical issues improved over the course of the game, so did the command issues. Another negative, though, was the fact that “Nolin doesn’t do himself any favors with his delivery because he ends his follow-through in a very poor fielding position and I watched two catchable bouncers get past him.” And he concluded by explaining that he’d “have to rate Nolin as a future No. 4 starter. He doesn’t look ready for the majors but another 10-15 minor league starts could make a world of difference.”
So… yeah. Granted, that’s just one start, he’s had another one since then to refine the mechanics, and other evaluatorrs have been slightly higher on Nolin than all that, but it’s a bit grim. I guess when your other option is Chad Jenkins, though, on eleven days rest, in an intra-division game that you really want to give yourself the best chance in, maybe it’s not so bad. But still, blowing an option on a thoroughly untested Nolin at this stage? Yikes. Should be interesting, at least. 2013, you guys!
Image via Henican.com.