Jimmy Nelson drew a $3.7 mil salary from the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018 during his first year of arbitration eligibility, and after missing the entire regular season while recovering and rehabbing from shoulder surgery, he’ll reportedly earn the same base sum in 2019:
Beyond the $3.7 million salary and same awards bonuses, #Brewers RHP Jimmy Nelson can get $50,000 for comeback player of year. Wouldn't bet against that guy, the way he gets after it.— Tom (@Haudricourt) December 12, 2018
Nelson, a former 2nd-round pick and top prospect coming up through Milwaukee’s system, finally broke out in a big way during his fourth year in the big leagues at age 28. An adjustment to his delivery and a change in pitch mix (heavier on the curveball, slider, and four-seam, lighter on the sinker) helped the big right-hander post a 3.49 ERA, along with ace-like marks of 70 FIP- and 70 DRA-, across 175.1 innings in 2017. He struck out 199 batters and slashed his walk rate, doling out only 2.46 BB/9. But during a start in September against the Cubs, Nelson severely injured his shoulder while running on the bases and was forced to undergo surgery.
Nelson required repair to his labrum, rotator cuff, and shoulder capsule. There was optimism early on that he would be able to return to action by around the All-Star break, but his progress stalled while he was throwing off flat ground and he never did end up making it back at all in 2018. He was able to throw off a mound during fall instructional camp at Maryvale, and the organization recently announced that his rehab is “complete” and Nelson will be able to go through his normal throwing program this winter in preparation for next Spring Training.
Nelson is a total wild card for 2019, and there is no way of knowing what to expect from him when he sees live batters again for the first time when Cactus League action kicks off. The history for other pitchers who have suffered through similar injuries offers a bit of a grim outlook, but Nelson’s track record and well-known makeup as someone who won’t be outworked offer some hope for his ability to come back. We won’t be able to know if Nelson will be on any sort of pitch count or anything until he starts throwing regularly, but even if he’s not immediately ready to jump back into a rotational role, he could build up an innings base while working as a multi-inning reliever within Milwaukee’s run prevention system. Nelson will be rewarded financially if he’s able to win the league’s comeback player of the year, too.
With Nelson now officially re-signed for 2019, that leaves six players left who still need to have their contract situations settled: Manny Pina, Domingo Santana, Travis Shaw, Junior Guerra, Corey Knebel, and Zach Davies.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus