Interview with Triple-A SP Jimmy Nelson | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

Jimmy Nelson is the one of the brightest spots in a Brewers’ farm system that is widely criticized as weak and lacking top-end talent. He was the Brewers’ lone member on the Futures Game roster, and is the only Brewers prospect ranked in the Top-100 Prospect list. While most scouting reports do not characterize him as a future ace, he is certainly regarded as one of the few pitchers in the Brewers’ farm system that possess the profile of a mid-rotation starter. I sat down with Jimmy earlier this year after his promotion to Triple-A Nashville:

Jimmy Nelson on his approach to pitching:

“I consider myself to be a ground-ball pitcher. I have two fastballs and a sinker that I rely on. I’ve learned how to use that sinker over the past couple of years to try and get early-count outs and let that defense work. When I was younger, I used to go for the strikeout and nitpick at the corners, and it caused my walk rate to go up early in my career. The last couple of years my approach has evolved, and I’ve realized I don’t have to strike everybody out and getting early count outs gets you deeper into games. If you have guys on second and third with less than two outs, you can go and get the strikeout when you need it. But having a good balance between being a contact pitcher and getting strikeouts when you need it is important.”

Talking about the evolution of his changeup and the pressure to develop it:

“It started in Wisconsin. They made me start throwing them a lot in Low-A. With the changeup, it a pitch that can change year-to-year depending on your grip. It’s just one of those pitches that you are constantly trying to evolve. It’s a feel pitch, so with power pitchers, it is a little harder to get the feel for it right away. It’s all a repetition thing, and I feel like I’ve had enough repetition now to feel very confident in the pitch. I feel like I can use it with righties or lefties in any count. Its come a long way since Low-A when I was all over the place with it.”

“If you want to be a starter in the big leagues, you are going to have to have a changeup. Even though I have two fastballs and a hard slider, you have to have something that looks like your fastball but is slower. The really good hitters in the big leagues can pick up the slider spin and fastball, so you have to have that pitch that looks like a fastball to get swings and misses.”

Talking about his repertoire of pitches:

“I’m throwing power sinkers, four-seam fastballs, a good slider. I haven’t thrown my changeup much lately, but it is a pitch I’m just as confident in. It’s a good weapon to have when a hitter is thinking I’m coming with a fastball or slider.”

“I think I’ve hit 98 a few times this year on my fastball. There’s really not much velocity difference between my four-seamer and sinker. A lot of guys have a 3-4 mph difference between those two pitches, but I’ve thrown so many of them in the minor leagues and developed them so much that they almost have the same velocity but two totally different looks.”

“This year I’ve been able to throw my slider in any count. First pitch, 1-0, 2-0, anything really. I can throw it for a strike, or I can throw it out of the zone. Its been something that has worked really well for me this year if I need a strikeout.”

Talking about his increased walk rate last year:

“It had a lot to do with my health. I was having shoulder problems and I was trying to just kind of throw through it. It was kind of like the same stuff (Hiram) Burgos has gone through this year, and I saw where he had said he was trying to throw through it and be a competitor. You feel a little soreness in there but you still want to go out there and compete. But when it gets to the point that it starts affecting your delivery and the quality of your pitches, you have to shut it down. Last year in Double-A it got to the point that I couldn’t throw the ball where I wanted t0 with the conviction I wanted to. When I came back off the DL, I started to feel better, and it was kind of a blessing in disguise because it helped me learn how to use my offspeed stuff more because I couldn’t really use my fastball.”

Talking about being labeled a “workhorse” and “innings eater” by scouts:

“I feel like I dedicate myself in the offseason and put in a lot of hard work to be able to go deep into games. It’s something you work hard for and you want to do for your team because it helps keep the bullpen fresh and allows the manager to set up the bullpen for the rest of the series. It’s definitely something I take pride in, being labeled a workhorse or an innings eater.”

Talking about his time at the University of Alabama and the decision to go to college:

“The struggles I had in my first year at Alabama really helped prepare me for pro ball. When I got to Low-A and struggled in the first half of the season, the time I spent at Alabama and the experience I had working through tough times really helped me handle it. It was a blessing to go there and definitely was the right choice instead of signing out of high school, one-hundred percent. The development and the things I learned there, the facilities, the coaches … I couldn’t have asked for more. I learned how to work there, how to compete.”

Talking about getting called up to Triple-A and a future promotion to the majors:

“I got called up on my birthday. I went out and did my usual work that morning, and we were back in the clubhouse playing ping pong. I got called into the office with DC (Double-A manager Darnell Coles) and Coach Hook (Double-A pitching coach), and they messed with me a little bit. We had already had a meeting with DC that day — and he doesn’t really have many meetings — so it was already the second time that day I was in his office, so I knew something was up. He tried to mess with me about all this stuff, but he eventually told me that I had been called up. It was exciting, and it was just another step towards the ultimate goal.”

“I have a friend that used to say you can’t look so far down the road that you trip over the rock right in front of you. As a minor leaguer you have to focus on getting the work done where you are at. At the end of the day, the pieces are going to fall where they will, and we can’t focus on what’s going on in the majors. As soon as you start thinking about the next level, you will lose focus on what you have to do here. When the Brewers decide to call up whoever, I will be happy for them just like they would be happy for anyone else who gets that call. Whenever they make that call, we will be ready.”

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