My timing hasn’t always been great with Aaron Nola, but maybe things are finally lining up.
We landed Nola on my keeper-league team last summer, thinking we had a long-time building block. Alas, a tender elbow limited his effectiveness down the stretch, and a wonky back messed up his start to 2017. Nola was still carrying a 4.76 ERA as late as June 16, and I emphatically wrote him off in one of the early-summer Shuffle Ups.
And that’s when the sliding doors took over. Nola finally came into full health, and over his last 13 starts he’s been one of the best owns in fantasy baseball. It hashes out to a 2.70 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over that span, with seven wins and 94 strikeouts. Only six starting pitchers are above him over that period, and two of them — Clayton Kershaw, James Paxton — are currently on the DL.
Nola’s latest turn was a thing of beauty, a relaxing watch. He limited the Braves to five hits and one run over seven innings Monday; no walks, six strikeouts. And heck, I don’t really hold the previous seven-run outing against Miami against Nola; it was a case of the Phillies leaving him out to dry, pushing him into the seventh inning on a night where he was out of gas.
The Nola comp I keep coming back to is Adam Wainwright. While Wainwright is a giant at 6-foot-7, Nola gets plenty of downhill plane at 6-foot-2. Like Wainwright, Nola is a high-pedigree arm with excellent control of a good-not-great fastball. A bushel of ground balls makes things easier, along with a dandy curveball. Nola also checks the equanimity box, as Wainwright always has — negative results don’t unravel these guys. Keeping your wits while everything around you is crumbling; that’s half the battle.
It took us a while to get here, but we’re here. I’m thinking Nola will be a SP2 for a number of my teams next year, and he’s earned set-and-forget privileges for the remainder of this season. N-O-L-A, Nola.
• Mike Montgomery has been a godsend this year, both for the Cubs and fantasy owners. He’s been a reliever, he’s been a spot starter, he’s been an innings eater and he’s been a ratio smoother (3.29/1.24)
Montgomery is back in the rotation these days and has two straight wins, including Monday’s cruise through the Pirates (7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 4 K). Even when the Cubs get everyone healthy in the rotation, Monty could stick around — Joe Maddon is considering a six-man rotation. At minimum, let’s keep Montgomery rostered for a start against Atlanta later this week. He’s a free pickup in two thirds of Yahoo leagues.
• I don’t blame anyone who’s run away from Kolten Wong. Mike Matheny has jerked him around fairly regularly. But the Cardinals are holding on for dear life in the NL Central, and Wong’s one of the guys keeping the ship afloat. He’s on a .376 bender in his last 30 days, with three homers, 19 runs, 18 RBIs and three steals. That makes him the No. 23 player in Yahoo over that span.
Wong’s making much of his second-half luck, spiking his hard-hit rate by almost eight percent. And interestingly enough, it’s a more aggressive plate approach riding shotgun. Wong is walking less and striking out a little more in the second half, but for some players, that’s the right tack to take. Often times, the best pitch you ever see is strike one, not offered at.
I’d love to see Wong traded at the end of the year. He’s still just 27, and could turn into an Ian Kinsler type of player with a patient organization. But we’re still trying to get the ring in 2017, and maybe Wong can be part of the solution. He’s eligible at second and the outfield, and oddly unclaimed in 72 percent of Yahoo leagues.