Jimmy Nelson’s Rising Stock

Does Jimmy Nelson have the best pure stuff in the Brewers organization? The answer is yes, or at least that’s what a source who has closely followed the right-handed pitcher’s career told me. And after hearing that, my curiosity was piqued — especially after Nelson faltered in the second half of 2012 and posted a 7.24 BB/9 in his first taste of Double-A.

Video after the jump

I talked to Nelson about his early struggles. “I ran into command problems the second half as a combination of adjusting to the league and missing a month with shoulder fatigue and inflammation,” he told me. Now healthy, the 23-year-old has posted better than a 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio through his first four starts.

Against a Chattanooga Lookouts roster headlined by Dodgers prospect Yasiel Puig, Nelson didn’t flinch. For five innings, he attacked hitters with a power fastball/slider mix that resulted in eight strikeouts and no walks. In one inning, Nelson tried to overwhelm Puig — a right-handed hitter — with multiple sliders. The result was another K for Nelson. “You can’t be intimidated or scared by good hitters,” Nelson said. “As soon as you fall behind a guy like [Puig], he’s likely to square something up pretty good. You have to pitch to your strengths.”

Those strengths include a four-seam fastball at 94 mph to 95 mph that has late tail away from left-handed hitters. Nelson peppered the strike zone with the pitch, though he’ll need to sharpen his command to the corners before he reaches Milwaukee. For now, though, it’s not a concern. “The pitching coaches have been trying to get me to use my pitches over the plate and trust my movement instead of trying to trick somebody or make a perfect pitch,” he says.

Nelson also threw a two-seam fastball at 92 mph with similar movement to that of his four-seamer, only it was more exaggerated.

Nelson presents with easy velocity and a strong, durable frame. At 6-foot-6, his ability to work downhill makes his fastball difficult to elevate. The result is a ground-ball-heavy arsenal with swing-and-miss stuff from a slider that flashes plus.

The slider generally sits between 85 mph and 87 mph — and touched 88 mph — and features sharp, late break down-and-away from right-handed hitters. Unlike most pitchers who start the pitch middle-out and cut it to the corner of the plate, Nelson threw a handful of sliders at the front elbow of right-handed hitters. This handcuffed more than one Lookouts batter who was forced to bail out before the slider broke across the plate’s inner half.

My only concern about Nelson’s arsenal is a perceived lack of confidence in his changeup. “I threw five changeups,” Nelson told me of the game I saw him pitch. (I clocked him at 84 mph on the one offering I measured.) “It’s a pitch I have, and it’s a good pitch for me. Sometimes, in games, I feel I can execute [another] pitch a little bit better, but it’s a pitch I trust as much as my two fastballs and slider.”

This sentiment was backed by a scout who’d seen Nelson pitch earlier and said the changeup was a potential plus pitch.

At a time when one would expect fierce competition to reach Milwaukee, Nelson is also working to share his second-half experiences with other members of the pitching staff that includes former first-round pick Taylor Jungmann. “Knowing what to expect I can explain things to him (Jungmann), so he doesn’t have to face those same troubles I faced last year,” Nelson said. “The coaches help us get better, but players have to take advantage of other players’ experiences, too.”

After scouting him as two-pitch closer candidate, learning about Nelson’s changeup leaves me confident in his ability to develop as a starter at the major league level. Fellow Brewers pitcher Wily Peralta passed through the Southern League at a younger age, but he didn’t have the same quality of stuff Nelson does now.

Through the first month of the 2013 season, few pitchers are off to a better start than Nelson. Rank top prospects in the Brewers organization today and the right-hander is in the running for the top spot. And with a glut of upper-level pitching prospects with mid-to-back-of-the-rotation ceilings, Nelson is achieving success and is separating himself from the pack.

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Mike Newman is the Owner/Managing Editor ofROTOscouting, a subscription site focused on baseball scouting, baseball prospects and fantasy baseball. Follow me onTwitter. Likeus on Facebook.Subscribeto my YouTube Channel.

10 Responses to “Jimmy Nelson’s Rising Stock”

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  1. FirstBleed says:

    Brewers haven’t had much success with pitchers in the minors since Yovanni graduated. Not that any of these guys are Aces in the making but you have to think 1 or 2 of the following could end up a solid 2-3 in the Majors: Jungmann, Hellweg, Thornburg, Nelson, Bradley, Pena… not to mention recent grads: Peralta, Rogers & Burgos. That’s a lot of depth, or are they all just good RPs?

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    • Yoshi says:

      Not Mike obviously, but I like Peralta a lot more than the others. After this report, I might like Nelson as much as Peralta too. Jungmann looks like a back-end guy who can’t K guys but gets strong groundball rates. Hellweg is a reliever unless he improves his control exceptionally. Thornburg’s straight fastball plays up better out of the ‘pen where he can sit at 95 and blow the ball hitters instead of 92-93 where he is homerun prone. Bradley was a mess last year; no comment yet. Pena has similar control issues as Hellweg.

      I think Peralta could become a #3, and he looked like a #2 last year in September locating his fastball that sat at 94-95 and throwing his slider for strikes. Jungmann could become back-end guy. Hellweg and Thornburg fit better in the ‘pen, although Thornburg has an outside chance to become a #3 if he starts commanding his fastball. Pena probably ends up a reliever. Burgos could become a back-end guy. Rogers can’t stay healthy ever.

      I believe its mostly depth and not a lot of top-line prospects. Peralta the best, maybe Nelson after hearing this review.

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      • Mike Newman says:

        The Brewers have a stockpile of 3-5 guys and bullpen arms. Having that is nothing to sneeze at. The organization has paid many millions for that in the past because they were unable to develop it.

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  2. As someone that saw Nelson throw a ton of innings at Alabama, this quote pretty much sums him up to me:

    “The pitching coaches have been trying to get me to use my pitches over the plate and trust my movement instead of trying to trick somebody or make a perfect pitch,” he says.

    His first two years in Tuscaloosa were disappointing from a results standpoint. He had great stuff, but was erratic at best. He would walk someone or hit a batter and his control just fell apart. It looked like he was trying to make perfect pitches to correct the earlier mistake and it snowballed on him. His draft year was when he finally started to show the results to go with the stuff. He attacked hitters in the zone more often and had a brilliant season. I think Nelson is going to be a guy that struggles a bit in his first taste at most any level due to the smaller strikezones/better plate discipline at higher levels. Once he figures out that he can’t nibble at each level, he seems to produce wonderful results. I think he could absolutely be a No. 2 type starter in the show one day. With his frame, I can see him easily holding up for 200 innings once he gets to that point.

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  3. Cram says:

    I guess maybe I’m biased from being a UT season ticket holder and watching Jungmann pitch for 3 years, but I’m still really surprised that he has been as hittable (and as erratic) as he has been in the minors. And as a Mets fan, I was really disappointed that we got “stuck” with Harvey during the draft.

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    • Mike Newman says:

      I’m hearing Jungmann described as a “back end guy” everywhere.

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      • Cram says:

        Yeah, that’s what I keep reading too which is shocking to someone who watched almost all of his home college starts. His delivery was fluid, he’s big (6’6″), he had velocity and control, and he seemed to have more than 1 or 2 pitches.

        Apparently not much of that has translated to pitching every 5 days though. It’s kind of disappointing that to consider that he won’t wind up being more than a back of the rotation guy at this point. He was a joy to watch for 3 years at Texas.

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  4. Adam Mac says:

    That SL really took off. If he can pitch with legitimately above average control and strikethrowing ability with that delivery, more power to him…there’s a lot of deception for a big power pitcher. They usually come right at you, but he hides the ball and it gives some deception.

    There wasn’t any video from the side, but because he hides the ball so well in his takeaway I’d be curious to see him throw from the 3B-line angle, to see the arm out of the glove. He definitely has the frame to be a workhorse, but with the velocity and amount of SLs he throws with, plus the amount of action his arm has through the release, if there’s any injury concern in his arm action.

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    • Mike Newman says:

      From the 1:52 mark on, it’s side views from both the wind up and stretch. I ALWAYS include both unless something unexpected happens while at the park.

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