I wrote a little bit about risk, and risk pools, and balancing risk in today's column about the decision-making process that led the Phillies to select LSU righthander Aaron Nola No. 7 overall. When a team selects a college hitter, the biggest risk it assumes is the hitter being unable to make contact against pitchers who consistently throw with movement and location. A hitter's "stuff" is a lot tougher to project than a pitcher's stuff, because location, velo and movement are fairly objective measures. Again, we're talking about the types of players available in the Top 10, players who already have mature stuff, and the big projection is how that stuff will play against better competition. If that makes sense.
As far as a college pitcher goes, the biggest risk a team assumes is health. It's a concern that keeps guys like Marti Wolever up at nights, because nobody has yet figured out a good predictor of injury. Or, if they have, they have wisely kept it under wraps.
So, Aaron Nola. I'm not going to pretend to know what any of this means, but I figured we might as well get it on the record, because it is something I noticed, and I think if you watch the above slow motion video of his delivery, you will notice it too.
There seems to be an awful lot of force concentrated on his right shoulder just before he releases his ball to home plate. The force pushes it toward third base, before its physical structure slams its momentum to a stop and turns into the fulcrum off of which the baseball is launched.
Go ahead, watch the video. It does not look normal, or comfortable.
While a lot of attention has been paid to Tommy John surgeries lately, a shoulder is a much different ballgame (see Hultzen, Danny). All that being said, the Phillies have watched a lot more of this guy than a You Tube video, and guys with far less violent deliveries have broken down. Also, Nola apparently does not have a normal shoulder structure. This interview says he is double-jointed. I don't have nearly enough expertise to tell you what that means w/r/t throwing a baseball.