Up next on the top 50 list is Sean Nolin, a left-hander that put himself on the map in 2011 and will be one to keep an eye on this season with Dunedin…
No. 32: Sean Patrick Nolin
Starting Pitcher / 22 years old / 6′5″ 235 lbs
Born: December 26, 1989 in Seaford, New York
Bats: Left Throws: Left
High School: Seaford (Seaford, NY)
College: San Jacinto JC (Houston, TX)
Acquired: Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 6th round (186th overall) of the 2010 Amateur Draft, signed on July 23, 2010.
Pre-2011 Rank: N/A
- Learned to throw a curveball as his first off-speed pitch
- Was always a pitcher, but dabbled with first base and the outfield in high school
- Grew up a Yankees fan, though his father was a Mets fan
- Played on the same college teams as 2011 Blue Jays draft pick David Rollins
- Majored in General Studies
- Was in his apartment at school in Houston when he discovered that he was drafted by the Blue Jays
- Helped new teammate Justin Nicolino get acclimated to Midwest League hitters
Lansing Lugnuts team ranking (min. 3 GS):
- 1st in strikeouts (113)
- T-1st in walks (31)
- T-2nd in starts (21) and home runs allowed (9)
- 3rd in innings pitched (108.1) and earned runs (42)
- 4th in ERA (3.49), hits (102) and WHIP (1.23)
Extra Information and previous experience:
Growing up in Seaford, New York and the Long Island area, Nolin attended a pre-draft showcase in 2008 when he was in high school and impressed an onlooker from Laar University so much that he was referred to San Jacinto College in Houston, Texas. That year, he was drafted by the Brewers in the 50th round but decided to, understandably, go to school at San Jacinto instead in an effort to boost his draft stock.
As a freshman in 2009, Nolin went 4-1 with a 2.72 ERA in 46 1/3 innings, striking out 56 and walking 25. He ended up getting drafted once again that year, this time by the Mariners in the 48th round, but again did not sign and returned for another college season.
It turned out to be a great move, as Nolin went 13-0 with 84 strikeouts and a tidy 1.98 ERA as a sophomore en route to being named to the NJCAA All-Region XIV team. In the 2010 draft, the Blue Jays felt that they had seen enough from the left-hander and selected him in the sixth round with the 186th-overall pick. Growing up a Yankees fan and following the AL East closely as a teenager, Nolin knew all about the Blue Jays.
After pitching over 100 innings that year, Nolin decided to use the signing period as an opportunity to take a break and let his body recover. When he made his professional debut with the Gulf Coast League Jays at the end of July, he fanned four hitters and allowed one hit in two scoreless frames. The outing was good enough to earn him a promotion to the Jays’ former short-season A affiliate, the Auburn Doubledays of the New York-Penn League.
There, Nolin made six starts with mixed results. While he did manage to rack up 22 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings (10.2 K/9), he also gave up 25 hits (11.6 H/9) and nine walks while limping to a 6.05 ERA. His results were likely attributed to fatigue after a busy college season, but it was also noted that he was out of shape and could benefit from improving in that regard. At that time (August 2010), he had spotty command of a 84-88 mph fastball, a decent feel for a high-70’s changeup and a curveball that needed a lot of work.
Over one year later, a lot has changed.
After working extremely hard over the 2010-11 offseason to get in shape, a very slimmed-down Nolin reported to spring training almost as practically a new pitcher. Having been more than stretched out in his draft year, he reported to Lansing in April for full-season ball and, after making a couple of relief appearances that month, he eventually became a full-time member of the Lugnuts’ starting rotation. He reaped the positive effects of his improved physique, which made his pitches crisper overall and even added a few ticks to his fastball that topped out at 94 but was routinely in the 89-91 mph range.
Stats-wise, Nolin’s 2011 season was certainly a success. In 25 games (21 starts), he fashioned a 3.49 ERA/3.16 FIP to go along with a team-high 113 strikeouts in 108 1/3 innings. He cut down his walk rate, limited opposing hitters to a .681 OPS, kept runners in check with his impressive pickoff move and managed a 6.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio against left-handed hitters.
Like all pitchers at his level, though, Nolin has some things to work on as well. Although he has an intimidating look on the mound, he’s not a power pitcher at all–consistently hitting high 80’s/low-90’s on the radar gun–but doesn’t make up for it with his command, at least for now. His four-seam grip changeup is his best off-speed pitch, but it still has a ways to go to consistently be even a major-league average pitch. His curveball is still considered a work in progress and he added a slider this year while toying with a cut version of his fastball, but none of the offerings are considered average pitches yet.
Expected 2012 team: Dunedin Blue Jays (A-Advanced)
Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: No. 5 starter
Seeing Nolin in spring training this year, the first word that comes to mind is big. He towers over his teammates and it’s easy to see why he’s able to throw the ball on a great downhill plane. Command struggles with his off-speed repertoire and some bouts of inconsistency are what he’ll look to work on while with Dunedin this season but, as a southpaw, even if he’s able to be more consistent with his changeup and develop it into a more reliable weapon, he could have success with a great complement to his fastball.
After flying under the radar last year, Nolin certainly made a name for himself in 2011. He has some work to do in 2012, but given how much he work he did one offseason ago, there’s reason to think that he’ll continue to improve.