Earlier this week, Benjamin Orr pondered when the Brewers would see prospect Jimmy Nelson in the big leagues. With the increase in Tommy John surgeries to pitchers in recent years, it seems impossible that the Crew would not need a starter to fill in for an injured player.
Jimmy Nelson was widely regarded as the Brewers’ top prospect prior to the season, and he has excelled in AAA Nashville. He seems a lock to join the Brewers if a pitcher goes down, but Nelson is not the only starter tearing it up in the minors. His most direct competition for a call up is rotation-mate Mike Fiers, who has been missing bats all year.
Fiers owns a stunning 12.7 K/9, while striking out 64 batters in just 45 1/3 innings. He has also given up just 6 walks, leading to an unbelievable 10.67 strikeout to walk ratio. Fiers drew major attention last night, when he fanned 13 Iowa Cubs in just 6 2/3 innings of work. In four of his seven starts, he has struck out batters into the double digits.
In a straight comparison, Fiers appears to be the stronger candidate for a call up, with an ERA of 1.59 to Nelson’s 2.00, as well as a .506 opponent OPS to Nelson’s .517. This is not to take away from Nelson’s astounding year thus far, and in some ways, his season has been more attractive.
Nelson’s shortest outing to date is 6 innings, accomplished four times, with his remaining appearances all involving 7 innings of work. Nelson has also managed a stunning 7 quality starts in 7 attempts. While Fiers has posted 6 QS in 7 attempts, he was roughed up by the Iowa Cubs last week, giving up 5 earned runs in 5 innings.
Both pitchers bring to the Brewers something that the other does not. Nelson is a highly regarded prospect that the Brewers hope to one day slide into the middle of their rotation. Fiers has 152 major league innings under his belt, and while he struggled mightily in 2013, his command has been excellent, as evidenced by his eye-popping stats.
At this point, Nelson’s success seems more sustainable, meaning that, down the line, Nelson would be more likely to earn a call-up than Fiers. However, if Fiers can continue to strike out hitters in bunches, while earning rave reviews for his command, he will create a tough decision for the Crew, if the need arrives.