Looking to restock a system weak in starting pitching on all levels, the Phillies selected Louisiana State righthander Aaron Nola with their first-round pick, seventh overall, in Major League Baseball's first-year player draft Thursday
With their second-round pick, the Phillies selected 6-foot-5 lefthander Matt Imhof from Cal Poly. He was the 47th overall selection.
The Nola pick was not a surprise, as he had been linked to the Phillies in several mock drafts.
"He was the top college pitcher for us," Marti Wolever, the Phillies' assistant general manager for amateur scouting, said at Citizens Bank Park.
Nola was the fourth pitcher selected and the second college pitcher, behind North Carolina State lefthander Carlos Rodon, who went third to the Chicago White Sox.
"Rodon had a tough year compared to what he did last summer, and Nola has been very consistent throughout his career," Wolever said.
Nola went 11-1 with a 1.47 ERA this season. He had 134 strikeouts and 27 walks in 1161/3 innings. For his three-year career, he was 30-6 with a 2.09 ERA and was a two-time Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year.
On Tuesday, Nola was named as one of three finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given annually to college baseball's top player.
The Phillies scouted the 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior pitcher extensively, including during last week's 5-1 win over Houston in the NCAA tournament. Nola earned the win, allowing four hits and one run in 71/3 innings.
"He was throwing between 91 to 97 [m.p.h.] and was sitting 93 to 94 with good sink," Wolever said. "We think it will play well in this park."
Wolever said Nola's fastball command is impressive.
"The real selling point to me with Aaron Nola is the command of his fastball, which is well above average," Wolever said. "He can command his fastball to both sides of the plate."
Nola, who turned 21 Wednesday, was a 22d-round draft choice of Toronto out of high school. He said a key to his development was opting for college over professional baseball out of high school.
"I have gotten so much better and matured more and gotten stronger mentally and physically coming to LSU," Nola said to reporters via a conference call. "Pitching under the best pitching coach, Alan Dunn, the first three years has been a blessing."
Wolever said he anticipated a quick signing. MLB's assigned value for the No. 7 selection is $3.3 million.
Because Nola threw so many innings, the Phillies will proceed with caution, Wolever said. But they would like to see him pitch in the minors this season.
When Nola was asked when he thought he could be pitching in Philadelphia, the Baton Rouge, La., native didn't back himself into a corner.
"I want to try as quick as I can," said Nola, whose brother, Austin, is a shortstop in the Marlins system. "I will take it step by step. I will compete as hard as I can wherever I go."
LSU coach Paul Mainieri raved about Nola's competitive spirit.
"He is as fine of a pitcher that I've coached in my 32 years," Mainieri said in an e-mail. "He was everything you wanted in a pitcher."
Imhof, the Phillies' second pick, was 10-4 with a 2.45 ERA this season. In 991/3 innings he struck out 124 and walked 43.
"He has a plus fastball, average to above breaking ball, and a lot of deception in his delivery," Wolever said.
The Phillies view him as a starting pitcher
"He is certainly a rotation guy," Wolever said. "We think middle to back of the rotation."