Jimmy Nelson’s five-year career in Milwaukee has gone through plenty of ups and downs. His future with the team was becoming very cloudy. Thankfully, it appears that he is beginning to find his stride this season. As a result, Nelson has become a very crucial piece to the Milwaukee Brewers’ success this season.
Nelson was highly coveted in the Brewers’ organization before he even arrived in Milwaukee. Drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft; he climbed the ranks and eventually became the Brewers’ top prospect in 2014, according to Baseball America. He would go on to make 14 starts that year, finishing 2-9 with a 4.93 ERA.
Yes, Nelson had a rough experience in his debut season with the Brewers, but you could see why there was so much promise surrounding the right-handed pitcher. Nelson is certainly a workhorse. He also showed that he was more than capable of striking out batters with a 7.40 K/9 ratio.
In his first full-length season, Nelson finished 11-13 in 30 games. This was certainly an improvement from his first stint in 2014, but there was still room for improvement. Many were expecting Nelson to be a top of the order pitcher, but his inconsistency held him back. He’s been a middle to bottom of the order pitcher.
It looked like Nelson was poised to take a giant step forward coming into last season. Unfortunately, it was another step in the wrong direction for Nelson’s development. He recorded a dreadful 8-16 record, with a 4.62 ERA.
A big reason as to why Nelson was struggling was the lack of confidence in his pitches.
Before 2015, Nelson mostly used two pitches, his fastball (95 MPH) and slider (89 MPH). He had little to no confidence throwing his changeup (88 MPH), which made it easier for the batter to guess what he was going to throw. His curveball (85 MPH) was still a work in process, as he recently added it to his arsenal in 2015.
Coming into this season, Nelson changed the grip on his changeup. That small tweak to his grip and development of his curveball is all Nelson needed to pitch with a lot more confidence. His changeup is now a useful tool for Nelson to strike out batters.
Nelson certainly appears to have finally taken that step forward in his career this year. He’s 7-4 in 17 games this season. If Nelson continues to play at the level that he’s at right now, he’ll be setting many career highs. His 3.20 ERA and 1.22 WHIP are the lowest that they’ve ever been in his career. Consistency may be a thing of the past for Nelson. He’s 6-2 in his last ten games. Nelson also picked up his first complete game last month against the San Diego Padres. If that’s not enough, the boost Nelson’s confidence pitches have been paying off as well. His 9.69 K/9 ratio is the best of his career so far.
The pitcher’s dominating performance has come at a great time this season. The Brewers need a dominating pitcher in their rotation right now with Chase Anderson landing on the disabled list, and Junior Guerra struggling as of recently.
It’s good to see Nelson finally finding his stride at the major league level. It’s also a big reason why the Brewers have been able to build a five and a half game cushion on the Chicago Cubs to lead the NL Central. Nelson’s still a middle of the order pitcher, but his performance this season has been anything but that.