On August 30, 2020, the Seattle Mariners traded Austin Nola, Austin Adams, and Dan Altavilla to the San Diego Padres for a haul. Ty France, Taylor Trammell, Andres Munoz, and Luis Torrens were all four dealt to the Mariners.
Adams has shown some success with the Padres but didn’t play the rest of this season after undergoing Flexor Tendon surgery. Altavilla didn’t do anything as a Friar, and so Nola was clearly the main target.
The goal was to bring in a solid contact-hitting catcher who can provide offense for the lineup. We all remember the days when Austin Hedges would upset many fans with his play at the dish. Here came a new Austin and one that is trying to end the horrendous offensive play at the catcher position for the Padres.
Austin Nola with a go-ahead hit against his brother!
Gotta love baseball! pic.twitter.com/0m8l5oi3Xc
— MLB (@MLB) June 25, 2022
Since Nola has been in SD, however, he has yet to really break out. This is now his third season with the Padres, and he hasn’t hit consistently since. He was batting .306 with the Mariners at the time of the trade but hit .222 with the Friars to finish off 2020. He played better last season, raising his average to .272 with a 101 OPS+ but never really contributed to the potential he can contribute too.
His play on defense isn’t much better. Nola currently has (-8) defensive runs saved on the season with a career-high six errors. To make matters even worse, he has allowed 49 stolen bases with an 11% caught-stealing percentage. The league average is 24%, so it’s safe to say that defense isn’t his specialty. His .991 fielding percentage is also the worst of his career.
This type of play needs to end if the Padres want a chance to make a playoff run. The fan favorite at the position is Jorge Alfaro, but Alfaro is currently playing rehab games in the minors. Nola is getting a majority of the starts and needs to step it up a level.
The catcher is going to be counted on many times to produce at the plate, and if he is playing in the field, then his defense needs to be at least up to par. Whatever he needs to do to change his play at the dish must change now because he will be tasked with making plays, and the opportunities will arise.
Imagine a Padres lineup with Nola hitting over .300 like the Padres thought they were getting. He’s going to be batting anywhere from 7-9 in the lineup, and it will be crucial for him to get on base. He will be out there with Juan Soto, Manny Machado, and Josh Bell stepping up to the dish.
Despite all of this and over the last 30 days, the Padres have had a slight taste of what Nola can do in this lineup. He hit .287 with one home run, 27 hits, and 11 RBIs before the Dodgers series to finally help get this Padres offense going. That raised his season average to .249 with a .642 OPS. Those aren’t numbers that will excite you, but they are good enough if you are hitting in the back of the lineup.
If Nola can continue this stretch of hitting, it will benefit this team as they have a critical month in front of them.