Before Jimmy Nelson was a Brewer, he was the victim of what might be the most unfortunate scouting comparison of all time.
When the Brewers selected Alabama Nelson with the #64 overall pick in the 2010 draft, we didn't know much about him but quickly learned that a scout had compared him to a "bigger, more phyiscal Jeff Suppan." The Brewers released Suppan and his 7.84 ERA that same month. The "next Jeff Suppan" wasn't something any of us wanted to think about.
That comparison continued to bounce around in my head as Nelson debuted as a reliever with Helena in 2010 and struggled as a starter with Wisconsin in 2011, posting a 4.38 ERA over 26 appearances. Nelson turned his career around, though, with big years in 2012 and again in 2013.
Nelson dominated the Florida State League for 13 starts in 2012 before being moved up to Huntsville. He repeated the AA level in 2013 and posted a 2.74 ERA over 12 starts before being promoted to Nashville, and eventually to Milwaukee. Then he made a phenomenal first impression with the Brewers, allowing just one run on two hits over ten innings. Opposing batters hit just .065/.189/.097 in 37 September plate appearances against him.
Nelson (nicknamed "Downhill Thunder") isn't frequently credited with having dominant stuff, but he struck out 9.6 batters per nine innings in the minors in 2013. His walk rate is a little troubling at 4.1 per nine innings for his career, but that's the lone flaw in his game at this point.
He made his first MLB start in the second-to-last game of the season on September 28, but it remains to be seen how long Nelson will have to wait for another. At the moment he's probably sixth on the organizational depth chart for starting pitchers, and could fall back further if the Brewers add veteran options this winter. He's almost certainly earned another chance in the big leagues, but he also has multiple options remaining and may have to wait his turn.
Nelson had to wait until the second-to-last day of the season to make his first MLB start, but had a very good day to take advantage of the opportunity. He held the Mets to a run on a single hit over five innings in a game the Brewers won 4-2.
Here are the highlights from his performance:
Nelson has well under a year of MLB service time. If he makes the roster out of spring training and never returns to the minors, he'll be eligible for arbitration following the 2016 season and a free agent following 2019.
Previous MVBrewers posts can be seen at the links below: