Results tagged ‘ Aaron Sanchez ’
Prospect Q&A: Marlins LHP Justin Nicolino on Being Traded, Turning Down WBC Team Italy, Hitting off Noah Syndergaard
Justin Nicolino completed his first bullpen session this morning. Excellent news, right Marlins fans?
Ready for even better news? Nicolino’s month-old throwing program is to get ready for the 2013 Minor League season, not the World Baseball Classic. More on that later. First, some background: Nicolino (@J_Nicolino22) was the best prospect in that 10-player, mid-November trade that sent All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes from Miami to Toronto. (I wrote here why I thought the Jays won the deal, despite Nicolino’s inclusion.) Now the Marlins’ No. 4 prospect (and baseball’s No. 86 overall), the 21-year-old left-hander will likely begin April at Class A Advanced Jupiter.
I caught up with Nicolino, who started throwing Dec. 16 and is working out with Cardinals farmhand Joe Cuda, this afternoon from his home in Palm Harbor. (He moved from Orlando to the Clearwater-Dunedin area when he was still in Toronto’s system but has relocated again.). Enjoy our chat.
Me: Let’s start with the newsiest item. You were asked to pitch for Team Italy in the WBC but declined?
Nicolino: Yeah, I got that phone call this past Sunday. I got a call from the pitching coach and he asked me if I would want to pitch for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic. They asked me if I wanted come out and do that. For me, it was an honor. To get called and be given an opportunity to pitch, I think for anyone, it’s an honor. When I talked to ‘em, I just said that with the trade and everything that’s happened this offseason, I wanted to get down [to Florida] and get used to the way the Marlins did everything. That way, I can go into Spring Training knowing [how the Marlins do things]. I didn’t want to go play for Team Italy and not know anything about the Marlins, or the Marlins not knowing anything about me firsthand. I told [Team Italy], ‘Maybe down the road, call back and it might be different.’
Me: Obviously, you’re an American-born Floridian, so would it have been weird to pitch for bella Italia and against Team USA?
Nicolino: Yeah, definitely. Being an American and having Team USA — that was the funny thing that came up in my conversation with my agent. A couple years down the road, whenever I get that phone call back, ‘What would you want to do: Team USA or Team Italy?’ At that point, four years down the road who’s to say what I’d do and who’d I pitch for.
Me: Just out of curiosity, where does your Italian heritage come from?
Editor’s note: Lost and Found is an offseason series in which one underrated prospect from each of the 30 MLB clubs will be discussed in a short, snappy post.
Lost: Sean Nolin had this unenviable scenario unfold in 2010: He was drafted after that Noah Syndergaard-Aaron Sanchez-Justin Nicolino trio in 2010 and, unlike each of those top pitching prospects, did not begin his career as smoothly.
2010-2011: 32 G — 28 GS — 4-6 W-L — 3.82 ERA — .262 .AVG — 149-41 K-BB – 129 2/3 IP at Rookie-level Bluefield, Auburn and Class A Lansing
Found: The sixth-round choice turned improved dramatically in his third pro season, doing many what many elite prospects do: upping their game against higher-level competition. His opponents’ batting average has decreased at each new level, including the .170 mark he held Eastern League (AA) hitters to this year, his restorative year.
2012: 20 G — 18 S — 10-0 — 2.04 ERA — .218 .AVG — 108-27 K-BB — 101 1/3 IP at Class A Advanced Dunedin, Double-A New Hampshire
So Nolin was lost, now he is found. Now, about the Blue Jays’ returns: Soon to turn 23 and now Toronto’s No. 19 prospect, Nolin deserves to be in that Syndergaard-Sanchez-Nicolino group. His low-to-mid-90-mph fastball is a touch below Syndergaard’s and Sanchez’s, and his changeup is almost or about as good as Nicolino’s, which is saying something. The less-lauded lefty also has immense confidence in his curveball, while his slider has perhaps the greatest potential to improve. He should begin ’13 at Double-A, which puts him a full year ahead of his fellow farmhands in development. So he may actually be the first of the four to get to the Majors, and that’s where he’s headed.