PITTSBURGH -- The Phillies selected Aaron Nola with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 Draft, in part because they preferred a polished baseball player at the time. They missed on top picks in previous seasons like Jesse Biddle, Anthony Hewitt, Joe Savery and Greg Golson. They liked Nola because they knew he would make the big leagues, even though many scouts believed Nola projected only as a reliable No. 3 starter.
But Nola exceeded those early expectations. He learned Sunday that he made his first National League All-Star team.
"It feels good," he said at PNC Park. "I watched it on TV a lot, so it will be exciting to see what it's all about and see all the All Stars."
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Nola made the team because he has developed into one of the best, most reliable pitchers in Major League Baseball. He is 11-2 with a 2.41 ERA in 18 starts this season. He has struck out 116 and walked 33 in 116 innings. He has allowed more than two runs in a start just four times.
"I wasn't really trying to pitch to be an All Star," Nola said. "I was just trying to do my job for the team, and try to win for the team, and do my part."
"Noles has been one of the elite pitchers in Major League Baseball," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "He's been as creative as anybody. When he doesn't have his best curveball, he can go to the changeup, and the fastball has been as good as anybody's in the game, and his ability to command it has been exceptional."
Nola's curveball indeed is one of the better breaking balls in the game with some of the best horizontal break. Batters miss the pitch 39.2 percent of the time they swing at it. They hit just .185 against it. He has thrown his sinker less this season (13.7 percent of the time this year, compared to 21.2 percent last year), but batters have hit just .183 against it, the lowest mark among 80 pitchers with at least 50 plate appearances against a sinker or two-seam fastball.
Opponents have hit just .222 against his changeup.
Nola's arsenal generates a ton of weak contact. He has allowed the seventh-lowest barrel rate (min. 150 batted balls) according to Statcast™, which has correlated to the third-lowest slugging percentage (min. 150 PAs) against among starting pitchers.
It is easy to picture him starting the first game of a postseason series with dominance like that.
Nola is the only Phillies player to make the team, which is somewhat unusual considering Philadelphia is tied with Atlanta for first place in the National League East. But Rhys Hoskins struggled in May, hurting his overall numbers. Odubel Herrera has been streaky at times. Seranthony Dominguez has pitched well, but he joined the big leagues in May.
"Just really happy for Nola," Kapler said. "He's been such a rock for us and such a calming presence that all the attention and all the focus was on the good, which is Aaron Nola is an All-Star for us."
Nola will pitch Monday in a doubleheader against the Mets. He then could pitch Saturday or Sunday against the Marlins in Miami. If he pitches Sunday, he will not be able to pitch in the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard.
"We're kind of balancing the honor of being in the All-Star Game with the necessity of winning baseball games for the Phillies," Kapler said. "Our first mission is to set up Noles for long term health, success in the first half, success in the second half and also balancing the honor of pitching in the All-Star Game."
Fans can cast votes for the final player on each league's roster -- on computers, tablets and smartphones -- exclusively online as part of the 2018 Camping World MLB Final Vote, as well as via the MLB At Bat and MLB Ballpark mobile apps, until Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET.
Then on Tuesday, July 17, while watching the 2018 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX, fans can submit their choices for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet with the 2018 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote.
The 89th Midsummer Classic, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.
For more information about MLB All-Star Week and to purchase tickets, visit AllStarGame.com and follow @MLB and @AllStarGame on social media.