GSA Spotlight: Davidson's Nolan DeVos

Years before he was the dominant staff ace for the best team in the Atlantic 10 Conference, Nolan DeVos was a standout performer at Hickory Ridge High School outside Charlotte, racking up strikeouts despite modest stuff. Now listed at 6-foot, 185 pounds, DeVos’ body never screamed “projection,” but Davidson’s coaching staff loved his pitchability and competitiveness, and they took a shot on the local product despite his below-average velocity.

“He was a guy in high school that was an 84-86 mph guy who could really pitch and locate. You’d watch him pitch and say, ‘Man, I know the ball’s doing something, not sure what it is exactly,” Davidson head coach Rucker Taylor said. “I think we were the only Division I offer; he’s a guy that kind of took a jump his senior year of high school. When he committed, he called and said, ‘Coach, can I drive up?’ This was early in the spring of his senior year, he wanted to drive up with his mother and brother and commit in person: ’Thank you for the opportunity, I want to commit.’ So that’s a little insight into, there’s something a little different here to the character, the family component, the makeup.”

DeVos went on to post strikeout numbers as a high school senior that Taylor aptly described as “astronomical,” leading all North Carolina 4A pitchers with 112 Ks, including a school-record 19 in one outing. He finished his prep career with 183 strikeouts in 115.1 innings along with a 2.37 ERA — and those numbers turned out to be a harbinger of things to come.

DeVos spent his first two years thriving in the Davidson bullpen, posting a 2.61 ERA and two saves in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign and a 1.48 ERA with eight saves and 39 strikeouts in 30.1 innings in 2021. His velocity had already spiked into the low-90s by the start of last season, and as the spring progressed he started flashing some 94s, then some 95s and even 96s. Taylor got reports that he even bumped 97 in the Coastal Plain League last summer.

“He got bigger and stronger when he got here,” Taylor said. “Parker Bangs, our pitching coach, has cleaned up some things mechanically to be a little more efficient, help the breaking ball play. It was fine for high school, but when he got here, especially his freshman fall, it didn’t do a whole lot. He was an 86-87 mph fastball guy who had a little bit of success, but he was kind of a one-pitch guy, and that trick’s not gonna last very long. So the breaking ball has gotten better from him working at it, and the velo has just kept trending up, trending up, trending up. And he’s still got that feel for pitching, that’s maybe a little different than that high school guy who is 91-93 as a 16-year-old who just threw it by guys. He had to pitch a little bit. Once the velo came, that’s allowed him to do some things that are pretty cool.”

It’s fair to say that what DeVos is doing in his third year at Davidson is pretty cool indeed. He has made a seamless transition from the back of the bullpen into the Friday starter role, going 5-1, 2.22 with a whopping 75 strikeouts against just 13 walks in 52.2 innings, earning him a spot on the Golden Spikes Award Midseason Watch List.

“For the most part he’s working quick, he’s in the zone a lot, he’s not walking guys, it’s just kind of attack mentality,” Taylor said. “That’s something, we didn’t know how he would transition from the pen but he’s done it this year and he’s been able to go deeper in games than maybe we anticipated originally because he’s been efficient. The slider, when it’s good, it’s above-average, it works for college. Some of the area guys around here have thrown out that it’s a borderline plus pitch for them at times when it’s good. Now that he’s starting, the fastball velo will sit 90-91, he’s touched some 3s and 4s this year, but it’s not quite the same fastball as it was out of the pen. But he’s been able to hold it for six, seven innings and he’s had really good results with it, so we’ll take it.”

DeVos’ fastball also plays above its velocity because “it has rise, ride, whatever term you want to use — it has high spin and efficient spin,” Taylor said. He can pitch at the top of the zone with his heater, but he can also spot up to both sides of the plate, a skill surely developed in high school when he couldn’t just overpower hitters with velo. Taylor said DeVos has also developed a pretty good changeup that he’ll use four or five times per game, mostly with good results.

And DeVos’ contributions go well beyond the numbers.

“I was in school at Vanderbilt with David Price, and when he wasn’t pitching, he was the loudest guy out there. Nolan is like that too — when it’s not his turn to pitch, he is the loudest guy in the dugout,” Taylor said. “He really cares about the other guys. When it’s not game day, he’s a very personable kid, a very likable person. He just kind of bubbles and bounces around, brings some good energy to the pitching staff and the whole team. We’ve had a couple midweeks where we’ve been gone on a weekend, we’ll sometimes leave our weekend guys at home to let them rest, and you can definitely notice when he’s not in the dugout. He provides an extra spark, definitely an energy giver.” is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.