The Brewers farm system isn’t exactly highly touted around the major leagues–rather, it’s usually the exact opposite. Baseball Prospectus ranked Milwaukee 29th among all teams in their organizational rankings. Sporting News, benevolently, ranked them 28th. ESPN’s Keith Law ranked them dead last.
One man–a bad, bad man–that clearly has no regards for these rankings is Jimmy Nelson. Widely regarded as the Brewers’ top prospect, Nelson has gotten off to a hot start with AAA-Nashville. On Wednesday, Nelson gave up one run on three hits over six innings. Jeff Hem reported the final line and Alec Dopp provided some additional metrics.
Another day, another quality start for Jimmy Nelson, his 3rd straight to start ’14. Final line: 6ip, 1r, 3h, 2bb, 6k (101/64). 1-1 tie, T7.
— Jeff Hem (@JeffHemPBP) April 16, 2014
— Alec Dopp (@alecdopp) April 16, 2014
For comparison, Marco Estrada, who misses a considerable amount of bats, posted a swinging strike rate of 10.9% last season.
Since the 2012 season, Nelson has emerged from fringe-MLB prospect to the frontrunner for best pitcher in the farm system. He has among the best stuff of all Brewers pitching prospects–mixing a 92-96 mph fastball with a sharp slider and a developing changeup. His fastball generates sizable sink and, mixed with the slider, he tends to draw lots of ground balls. With the improvement of his changeup, he’s missing more bats, as well.
Through three starts this season, Nelson hasn’t disappointed. He’s posted a 2.50 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 18 innings to go along with a 2.70 GB/AO rate. Opponents are only hitting .172 against him, which has a lot to do with the high percentage of grounders.
While the current Brewers rotation seems to have it together, one never knows when a pitcher injury might happen. Nelson is positioning himself nicely to be in line for a potential call up in that event and it’s appearing all the more likely he will be making a push for a full-time rotation spot quite soon–possibly as early as the 2015 season.