Finding pictures for these posts is the worst. - Tom Szczerbowski
This week we look at one of the most under the radar prospects in the Jays' farm system.
The Prospect of the Week post this time around will feature Sean Nolin. A tall 23 year-old lefty pitcher, Nolin has lurked under the radar in the Jays’ farm system thanks to being drafted in the same year (2010) as the Lansing Three (not a bad draft haul). Drafted in the sixth round out of junior college in Texas, Nolin never made a huge splash until this past year where he pitched very well in both high-A Dunedin and AA New Hampshire. With the recent trades of Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard, Nolin will start the year as one of the Jays’ pitchers of the future alongside Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna.
Sean Nolin doesn’t power anyone away with his stuff but has shown himself to be very capable of pitching smart (2.4 BB/9) and striking out a lot of batters (9.6 K/9 in 2012). Nolin features the four main pitches (fastball, change-up, slide, curveball) and while they clearly got the job done in the low minors, they are all reported to have a lot of room to improve.Pitches Fastball- Nolin’s fastball isn’t exactly the stuff of legends, usually sitting around high 80’s to low 90’s on the radar gun although it has been known to get as high as 94-95 MPH. In an interview with Baseball Hot Corner, Nolin talked about his fastball saying, "My out pitch would probably first be my fastball. I work off that a lot... My fastball will sit at 90 for the most part but I have bumped it up to 95 a few times this season." Obviously his fastball will have to improve if he wants to use it as an out pitch in the high minors and the majors. It seems he recognizes this as in the interview he also said, "It’s the fastball. There’s always room for improvement with your pitches. But for me it’s getting that fast ball down in the zone every time and I should be ok if they’re quality pitches."
Here’s a video of Nolin getting a strikeout in Lansing with what looks like a fastball:
Change-Up- The change seems to be where Nolin has the most opportunity for improvement. Sitting in the low-80’s, the progress of his four-seam grip change-up will be a big key to future success for the big lefty. If he isn’t able to develop the pitch to major league caliber it will hard for him to survive with both a below average fastball and change-up.Curveball- Nolin’s curveball is another pitch that looks to have a lot of upside although it is far from a finished product. In the interview I linked to earlier he talked about his curve as well saying, "…if my curve ball is on. I would say that would be the out pitch for me, just have to pick the right spots to throw them…The curveball is at 72-75" Slider- You’ve probably noticed a pattern in regards to Nolin’s repertoire by now. The slider is no different from the rest of his pitches as it is below average at this point, but has shown a lot of room for improvement. The newest of his four pitches, the slider is not as talked about as the rest of his stuff (in fact it wasn’t even mentioned in this recent scouting report) but it will be interesting to see if it develops as a strong fourth pitch or remains as a simple "show me" pitch. Outlook- Sean Nolin is definitely an interesting prospect and beyond the fact that his pitches are not yet fully developed there does not seem to be many question marks. There doesn’t seem to be any concern with his mechanics or injury history which bodes well for the future. If he can work on his secondary pitches Nolin could be a solid left handed starter in a few years. In 2013, I would assume he’ll start in New Hampshire, which is where he finished this past season. It wouldn’t be surprising if he stayed in AA for the majority of the year, but if injuries hit the clubs in Buffalo or Toronto, Nolin could find himself as a late summer/September call-up to the big club. The more likely outcome is that Nolin finds himself pitching in Toronto sometime during 2014. Here’s one last look at Nolin’s mechanics:
Blue Jays LHP Sean Nolin warming up - Lansing Lugnuts - Midwest League 2011 (via MLBProspectPortal)
Lastly, does anyone get a Mark Buehrle feeling about Nolin? Both are good-sized lefties with high 80’s fastball and solid secondary offerings. Nolin does seem to rely on the strikeout a little more than the contact pitcher Buehrle though. The ceiling on Nolin seems to be a little lower than Mark Buehrle but the comparison could definitely be made.Here’s a video of Buehrle:
Mark Buehrle Slow Motion pitching mechanics (via MrSox26)