10 Things to Know About (Aaron) Nola

The heralded Phillies prospect debuts on the mound tonight. Here's what to know about him before the game begins.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs pitcher Aaron Nola (10) delivers a pitch during a game against the Rochester Red Wings on July 4, 2015. Lehigh Valley defeated Rochester 4-3.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs pitcher Aaron Nola (10) delivers a pitch during a game against the Rochester Red Wings on July 4, 2015. Lehigh Valley defeated Rochester 4-3.

Tonight’s the night, Phillies fans.

In what could be the best night for the Phillies in recent memory, their second-ranked prospect — and highest-ranked pitching prospect — Aaron Nola will leave the bullpen, step on the mound, toe the rubber, wind up and throw his first pitches in the big leagues against the Tampa Bay Rays. (He pitches tonight at 7:05 p.m. against the Tampa Bay Rays at Citizens Bank Park.)

Nola was called up by the Phillies on Friday, July 17th, and will take the mound on the heels of a four-game winning streak. Here are ten things you should know about him before he lets that very first pitch loose.

1. Aaron Nola’s last name is oddly indicative of where he was raised and went to college. The LSU product and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native’s surname spells out NOLA, or New Orleans, Louisiana, the better-known city just down the Mississippi River. Coincidence? Yeah, probably.

2. The guy can certainly strike batters out, but he’s much more likely to not allow walks. Nola sported a 21% strikeout rate in his combined minor league play, which FanGraphs says is “a notch above the average minor leaguer,” but a minuscule 4% walk rate, which means if you’re an opposing hitter looking to get on base, you’ll have to come to the plate swinging. (Nola also rose precipitously through the Phillies’ minor-league system, playing only 30 games — 12 in 2014, his professional debut, and 18 this season — between A, AA and AAA ball before getting the call on Friday.) [FanGraphs]

3. Nola majored in Sports Administration at LSU, so if, like Billy Beane, his major league career doesn’t pan out, he could very well see himself in a front-office role somewhere. (Let’s just hope that’s a long way down the line.) [LSU Athletics]

4. Nola should have an easy time getting his feet wet at the major league level of baseball. With the Phillies sporting the worst record in the league, and far out of any even remote chance of playoff contention, Nola will test his stuff — a fastball, curveball and changeup — with plenty of room for mistakes and development, instead of getting thrown into the fire of a playoff race. [FanGraphs]

5. Nola is a righty, which means that if he excels and moves up in the pitching rotation, and if Cole Hamels doesn’t leave (a very big “if”), the pair could make for a nice one-two punch at the top of the Phillies pitching staff.

6. Regular people have their vital signs — heart rate, blood pressure, height, weight. Pitchers have their own set of vital signs — wins and losses, ERA, strikeouts, walks. Here are Nola’s career minor league vitals, going into his MLB debut tonight: 14 W, 7 L, 2.57 ERA, 164.2 IP, 137 SO, 28 BB, 1.06 WHIP. Not too shabby. In addition, he racked up a K/9 rate of 7.5 and a BB/9 rate of … wait for it … 1.5. [Stats by Baseball-Reference.com]

7. Here’s a video of Nola from college talking about his different pitch grips:

8. And here’s a slow-motion breakdown of his pitching mechanics:

9. Nola, who will wear a No. 27 uniform, looks to be an extremely exciting (and needed) boost of energy for fans and the entire Phillies organization as they play away a horrendous season.

10. You can follow Aaron on Twitter at @AaronNola10.

11. Bonus! Watch this video of Nola giving reporters his first major league media interview! [NJ.com]

Follow @MaxGRettig on Twitter.