Name: Nick Nelson
DOB: December 5, 1995
Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.
Fastball. Nelson has one of the better fastballs from a pure velocity standpoint already, sitting mostly in the 93-96 mph range, and showing the kind of power that could actually continue to get better as he further refines his pitching mechanics. More of a grip-it-and-rip-it arm as an amateur and into his professional debut season last year, the lack of mechanics hurt his fastball command [or lack thereof] and it didn't allow his velocity to be maximized either. In fact, walking more batters than he struck out last year, Nelson didn't really know what to do or how to get the ball where he wanted. Very athletic though and extremely coachable, the Yankees put more of a modest load into his delivery and the early returns were outstanding, including better control and command, and more power. Considering the dramatic returns just some minor professional tweaks made to his game provided, scouts and the Yankees are intrigued by what a full year of professional coaching could do to his fastball command going forward and even his entire game.
Other Pitches. Nelson's best secondary pitch -- and really his only true other pitch both as an amateur and as a professional last year -- is his curveball. A true knee-bender, it's a power curveball that comfortably sits in the 79-82 mph range. Oddly enough, while his then rather raw mechanics hindered his fastball command it wasn't a huge detractor from commanding his curveball, although rapidly improving mechanics have helped some in that regard. An above average to plus pitch, there is still some ceiling to be tapped from a consistency and command standpoint but otherwise it's a really good pitch already. His changeup on the other hand was a pretty non-existent pitch for a majority of his debut season last year. Although he continued to work on it behind the scenes, he never really broke out it in games until Instructional League this offseason and the early reports have been amazing. More of a splitter than a true changeup, it sits in the 89-92 mph range with solid diving action but it allows him to give batters a third different look. It's so new that it would be unwise to grade out the pitch right now but it does show some long-term above average or better potential if he can replicate his Instructional League success with the changeup going forward.
Pitching. Nelson's pitching style still hasn't really taken shape yet either. He has the kind of plus one-two punch with the fastball and curveball combination to give him huge weapons against opposing batters right now but the mechanics and resulting command, not to mention a full power potential that has yet to be maximized, are really only now in their infancy stage and that has both scouts and team officials alike very intrigued about his long-term ceiling. Nelson and the Yankees are hoping that the improved mechanics and command allow him to be more aggressive in the strike zone and attack more earlier in counts. Until it happens that way, however, it remains to be seen if the constant battle trying to get ahead in counts will affect his confidence. There is still a lot more to be gleaned mechanically and command-wise, and should those areas of his game continue to improve then it should have a domino effect on his pitch-ability, approach, and confidence.
Projection. With a plus power fastball, one that could really balloon in short-inning relief situations if given the chance, and with a knockout breaking ball, Nelson already has the kind of high-end, back of the bullpen stuff made of potential setup men or closers. It's in that kind of role where a lack of command could be hidden a bit more too, especially given the effectiveness of his two main pitches. In fact, it's not hard to envision a development scenario where he could grab on to a [Cleveland Indians reliever] Cody Allen-like ascension even if the command doesn't improve much more. However, most Yankee pitching coaches believe there is a potentially game-changing third pitch in the works with his changeup and that neither the fastball command nor the breaking ball have reached their respective ceilings either, and that the trio gives him some serious potential as a big league starting pitcher too that can't be overlooked. There are some apt comparisons to current Yankee pitcher Bryan Mitchell as a potential frontline starting pitcher or power reliever type, and like Mitchell not only does Nelson provide some long-term role flexibility but it could also take some time for that role to figured out internally among team officials as he continues to work on the non-stuff parts of his game.
ETA. N/A. Nelson's game as it currently stands is just a little too raw and the role long-term a bit too muddied for a realistic big league arrival time to be estimated just yet. For now the Yankees will be content to keep him in the starting rotation -- most likely in low-A Charleston in 2017 -- to continue getting his innings in and working on the areas of his game.