Nelson, a power right-hander who has the potential to be an big league pitcher someday if he can win the battle against the injury bug, is playing in his second professional season in the Yankees organization. Following his stint with the Pulaski Yankees he is now a starter for the low-A Charleston Riverdogs.
The former fourth round pick in 2016 has unfortunately dealt with injuries to his oblique and hamstring that has hampered his season this year, however. Seemingly every ill-timed visit to the disabled list was right when Nelson began to pitch well too. Health is Nelson’s biggest concern with two visits to the DL so far, including one currently, at the midpoint of the season.
“You got to stay healthy,” Charleston pitching coach Justin Pope insisted. “It’s hard to stay consistent and work on the things you need to [when injured]."
Nelson has a solid 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame and like most right-handed pitchers his most effective pitch is his fastball. In fact, it's his ability to blow by most batters with mid-to-upper-90s heat that really stands out and he compliments his fastball with a 90-92 mph changeup and a 78-81 mph curveball.
“Right now for him the main objective is throw his to throw [his changeup]," Pope said. "He’s got plus movement on it. Sometimes it [even] works as a split”,
As it was in his debut season a year ago, honing on his secondary pitches has been a focus for Nelson and Pope throughout the season and that will remain the plan once he returns from the disabled list again.
“We just got to get him on the mound so he can string together some quality starts," manager Pat Osborn said. "He has really good stuff and is another guy that profiles as a Major League starter [someday]."
Last season in the rookie Appalachian League, Nelson posted a 3.38 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 21.1 innings but also walked 22 batters in short-season Pulaski. He went to work on his command at Instructional League this offseason and continued that work in his first ever Spring Training camp this year. He has shown great progress in that area of his game too.
In his eight starts this season, Nelson has recorded 39 strikeouts in 35 innings and cut the walks down to 17 so far. Opponents only have an average of .233 against him too, even though his ERA currently stands at 5.91 and the fact that he's still looking for his first ever professional win. Some blame can be assigned to his injuries and not reaching any type of rhythm.
Despite injury this season there have been flashes of Nelson’s true abilities. He just needs to have a consistent rhythm. Still young, he is developing the physical and mental maturity necessary to pitch at a high level.
“Just like a lot of [young players] he is learning how to harness the strike zone and throw his pitches consistently,” Osborn confirmed.
Nelson is a guy who just loves playing baseball and working hard to get where he needs to be, and that dedication will pay dividends soon once staying healthy becomes a bit more consistent.
“I want to get better every start. The goal is to get better every time,” Nelson said of the mindset he possesses before each start. “I need to learn from my mistakes and know which pitches to throw in [certain] situations."
It's particularly tough for Nelson to endure these nagging injuries and seeing his game slowly develop as a result after he worked so hard in the offseason to be the best possible physical shape.
Nelson was put on the seven day DL June 2nd most recently and fortunately will be making his return to the mound soon. With the second half of the season fast approaching Nelson is looking to finally stay healthy and become the player that he was profiled to be.
Currently going through some growing pains as he forges through what appears to be an injury-nagging first full year, Nelson is headed in the right direction. When he figures out how to be a pitcher at the professional level he has the skills to really scare batters for a long time.
“He has huge potential. He has some of the best stuff on the team”, Pope said. “For him it’s going to be about consistency, his delivery and putting himself in a good position to throw strikes.”