In a weird way, that Sean Nolin has a 40.50 ERA in his MLB stat line is almost a good thing.
It’s the sort of number that’s simply too high to take seriously, and that it all came within 1.1 innings in his only big league start meant that the six-run hammering he took is essentially a non-factor when it comes to evaluating whether or not he might be a viable asset at the game’s highest level going forward; nonexistent sample size aside, it’s practically a mulligan in numbered form.
So, how come the Toronto Blue Jays never gave him another shot?
To be fair to the young lefty, you could probably make the argument that skipper John Gibbons probably should have let him try to finish the second inning to begin with if only so Nolin could be sent back down knowing he could at least bounce back from a disastrous debut.
However, that the team decided to roll with a carousel of mostly failed experiments in the starting rotation without so much as letting the 23-year-old sniff the mound perhaps speaks to his overall readiness. That, or maybe they just didn’t want to take the chance of what another demoralizing blowout would do if he got another chance right away.
In 2014, however, that could be a different story. While the team is certainly looking to bolster its starting rotation through the offseason, it’s far from being a guarantee, and the fact that there are at least two spots available on the starting five means that the southpaw will get a shot at making the team in 2014.
He’ll be competing with the likes of Drew Hutchison, Esmil Rogers, Kyle Drabek and Todd Redmond, and while all have had more MLB experience than Nolin, he should not be counted out. No, his results in double-A weren’t quite as dominant after his brief appearance in the bigs, but he did put together a stretch of 19.2 scoreless innings over three starts in July, and he had a brilliant 13-strikeout, six-inning turn in August.
The bump to triple-A Buffalo saw him run into some control issues (5.09 BB/9) but that he only posted a 1.53 ERA through 17.2 innings should be a slight indicator of how good his stuff can be (.220 BAA).
If the fate of the Blue Jays rotation is going to be anything like what fans have seen the last two seasons (though hopefully not), the question of whether Nolin will get another shot is not really a matter of ‘if’ so much as ‘when’. After all, a double-digit strikeout rate from the left side, even in double-A, is nothing to simply ignore; he might not be a top-tier pitcher with the upside that a prospect like Aaron Sanchez does, but he’s certainly a lot better than six runs over 1.1 innings.
That being said, he is a little bit behind in the depth chart among his main competitors on the Blue Jays, and unless the team significantly overhauls that side of its roster by making trades, you’d have to think that Nolin is earmarked for triple-A to start the 2014 season.
It’s a long year and he’ll have a shot at making the team, but aside from impressing in Spring Training, the lefty will also need a lot of help during the season to really begin lowering that major league ERA from its double-digit state.