by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Brewers’ Jimmy Nelson has become a mainstay on our Top 10 Prospects On The Cusp Power Rankings, and he will remain there until he finally gets his shot (with the rash of recent callups, you can argue that he will be locked into a Top 3 spot until he is recalled himself). However, as fantasy owners wrestle over the idea to stash him or not just how good has he seemingly become?
The numbers are incredibly impressive, especially coming in the Pacific Coast League. Through 77.2 IP he owns a 1.58 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 86 K. Control has always been his biggest issue, with a 3.9 BB/9 over his minor league career, but that hasn’t been a problem this year with 23 BB (2.67 BB/9). In fact, he hasn’t walked more than 3 batters in any start this season. We can’t forget that it looked like he had fixed the control problems at Double-A last season (1.96 BB/9) before struggling at Triple-A (5.40 BB/9), so there’s reason to believe in the improvement.
Throw in the ability to generate groundballs (54.9% since 2011) and what exactly is there not to like?
Another major question facing Nelson was his ability to get out left-handed hitters. They hit .262 against him last season, while righties managed just a .223 mark. This season? Lefties are hitting a meager .171 (while righties own a .167 mark).
Prior to his spot start for the Brewers, J.J. Cooper explained the improvement (you can read his entire article by clicking here):
“Although Nelson throws a changeup, its improvement has not played a major factor in his newfound ability to handle lefties. More importantly, he’s been able to locate his fastball to both sides of the plate. With improved ability to throw his fastball for strikes and to get in on the hands of lefthanded hitters with his fastball, he’s kept them from getting comfortable at the plate.”
That’s a major step in his development and should go a long ways in leading to success. In regards to the improvement in his change up, Cooper said:
“Nelson has also shown an ability to throw his changeup to righthanders to keep them off balance. While they have to be more aware of his power stuff, the changeup has been a useful if still fringy third offering.”
Having the third pitch is crucial, as works deeper into games and needs something different to keep batters off balance. Even if it doesn’t develop into a plus offering, as long as it is effective it should be enough. From prior reports I’ve read, expectations are that it can at least be average.
Prior to the season Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 (click here for his full top 10) voiced this concern regarding Nelson:
“There is definitely some funk and effort in his delivery, which provides some deception, but he’s also having trouble repeating his delivery as was evident in his 50 walks in 83.1 inning in Triple-A. Part of his mechanical problem is just trying to control his 6-foot-6 frame. The balance and posture are poor but candidly a lot of Brewers pitchers have poor posture as they arch their back during their delivery.”
However, that too no longer appears to be an issue either. According to Cooper:
“Although still prone to overthrowing, it’s usually a pitch or two before he regains his delivery now.”
In other words, Nelson continues to learn and adjust. No one ever questioned his stuff, and with his new found control he brings the trio of stats we target. With a good offense behind and Marco Estrada losing his grip on a rotation spot it would appear Nelson’s time is coming.
Maybe it takes one more poor outing for Estrada, but the Brewers simply can’t keep Nelson down much longer. If you are in a deeper format, make the move now because the upside is there to make a major impact over the remainder of 2014.
I’d consider Nelson over A.J. Burnett, Ubaldo Jimenez, Travis Wood (basically any marginally veteran at the back of your rotation)
Sources – MILB.com, Minor League Central, Baseball Reference, Baseball America, Prospect 361