MLB Prospect Review: Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

Chris Trotman

Jimmy Nelson has been putting up video game numbers in the relatively hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. However, he waits for an opportunity in the Milwaukee rotation as the team continues to lead the NL Central. When could we see him, and what could he do for fantasy owners when that happens?

Throughout the minor league season, the prospect staff here at Fake Teams will look at a number of prospects for your fantasy and dynasty teams. Some will be prospects that you'll see this year in the majors, while others are interesting targets in longer term formats. Up today is a prospect who will start the AAA All-Star Game in a couple weeks, right handed starter Jimmy Nelson of the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Basics

Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 245 lbs.
On 40-Man Roster: Yes 
Options Remaining: 2 (2014)
DOB: 6/5/1989 (Age 25 Season)

His History

Nelson was drafted by the Reds out of high school, but did not sign as a 39th round pick. After attending the University of Alabama for three years, the Brewers drafted Nelson in the 2nd round in 2010, and signed him to a bonus of just over half a million dollars. The organization sent him to the Pioneer League after signing, where he threw 26 innings and struck out 33 while walking 13. He was sent to full-season Low-A for the 2011 season, and had a lackluster stat line there (120 K, 65 BB, 4.65 ERA). Ranked by Baseball America as the #10 prospect in the Brewers' organization after that year, they noted that he had a wide-range of potential outcomes at this point.

The Brewers moved Nelson to High-A to start the 2012 season, and started to deliver on the potential that the team saw. In 13 starts in Brevard County, Nelson struck out 77, walked 25, and allowed just 63 hits across 81 innings before a midseason promotion to AA Huntsville. Over 10 starts there, he struggled with his control (37 walks), but allowed just 34 hits over 46 innings.

He returned to AA in 2013, and showed better form again (72 K, 15 BB, 63 Hits allowed in 69 innings) before a promotion to AAA Nashville. As with previous promotions, Nelson struggled with his control in his first go-around at the level, walking 50 over 83 innings. When the minor league season ended, Nelson was added to the 40-man roster, and added to the bullpen, even making a spot start of five innings in the las week of the season.

With the signing of Matt Garza this offseason, there wasn't necessarily a spot for Nelson to pitch in Milwaukee this year. He was called up to make a spot start this year, but has been otherwise in Nashville, and has been dominant there. So far this year, with a 10-2 record with a 1.56 ERA, 110 strikeouts, and 30 walks over 104 innings there.

The Scouting Report

Nelson features a four-pitch repertoire consisting of both a two and four-seam fastball, slider, and changeup. The two-seamer is considered his best pitch, which sits in the low 90's and helps him to generate an absolute ton of ground balls (60% so far this year per MLBFarm.com). Both the slider and changeup are considered to have the potential to be at least average offerings or better, although reports during the offseason noted that they still needed work.

There are questions regarding his ability to limit his walks, although he seems to have those under control at the moment at AAA. He has shown a pattern in the past of struggling with this when reaching a new level of the minors, so it's possible we see this happen again when he gets to the majors. There have been reports in the past that he has had issues repeating his delivery consistently, which does not surprise me given his height and build. His frame is ideal for eating innings, but that quantity will also be limited based on his efficiency.

What Can He Do For Your Fantasy Team?

With Nelson, it really comes down to how well he contains his control issues. If he's the pitcher we've seen so far this year at AAA, you're looking at a potential top 30 starting pitcher, generating both high strikeout and groundball totals, an excellent combination. If that happens, a sub-3.75 ERA with around 175 strikeouts and a WHIP around 1.20-1.25 over a full season workload (180 innings in this case) is possible.

If the control problems return, and cannot be resolved, it's entirely possible still that we see Nelson move into the bullpen permanently, where he could provide value either as a back-end of the bullpen arm with a strikeout rate or even potentially as a long-term answer as a closer.

When Could We See Him in the Majors?

Nelson's path to the starting rotation for the Brewers seems to hinge almost entirely on whether Marco Estrada pitches well or not. The Brewers are leading the NL Central right now, and as a competitive team may be less inclined to give Estrada a long leash should he struggle on a consistent basis. I do think that by next season Nelson is locked into their rotation, but may end up working out of the bullpen this year if they continue to run Estrada out there.

Conclusions

Nelson has pitched about as well as anyone could hope to expect so far this year, and seems likely to get a chance to pitch in the rotation this season. The upside there is that he gets his shot and pitches well enough to cement his spot for next year, while providing value to fantasy owners in all formats. Should he get called up soon, he has the potential to provide more value for the rest of the season than nearly any other prospect left in the minors. Just know that there is the potential for a few blow-up starts if his control fails him, and keep that in mind when running him out in your lineup for every start.

Sources

Baseball America
Baseball Reference
Baseball Prospectus
The Baseball Cube
Fangraphs
MLB Farm
MILB.com
Brew Crew Ball
Youtube

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