Jimmy Nelson made his 2014 debut on Sunday in Miami pitching 5 2/3 innings of scoreless ball in the Brewers’ 7-1 victory over the Marlins.
At 6’5″, 245 lbs, Nelson is an imposing figure on the mound and looks like he’ll be the next Wily Peralta (a quality mid-rotation starter with plus stuff and occasional command issues). Nelson came into the season as the Brewers top prospect and is currently dominating AAA for Nashville after having a shaky 2013 season for the Sounds.
In 58 innings for the Sounds, Nelson is 5-1 with a 1.71 ERA and 2.85 FIP. He’s striking out nine batters per nine innings, and walking just 2.64. Predictably in his first start for the Crew he struggled with his command and walked four hitters in fewer than six innings pitched.
This is something of a pattern for Nelson. Moving from high-A to double-A in 2012 his walk rate jumped from 2.77 BB/9 to 7.24 BB/9. Then in 2013 when moving from double-A to triple-A his walk rate jumped from 1.96 BB/9 to 5.40 BB/9.
It looks as though when the Brewers need a spot starter this season, Nelson will be the guy to fill the role, but it is uncertain if he’ll be the pitcher they call on if somebody receives a longer stint on the disabled list as the club may not want to hamper his development.
Given his, supposed, limited role in 2014, what is the 2015 outlook for Nelson? Lohse and Garza are both signed for next season for big money. It is hard to image that the club will pass on Gallardo’s $13 million option for 2015. Estrada still has another year of arbitration eligibility and Peralta still isn’t eligible.
Estrada is the most obvious candidate to be replaced. His 3.98 ERA makes him worse than league average, and his 5.43 FIP points to trouble ahead. His high FIP is largely due to the fact that Marco leads the league in home runs against with 16 already. He’s given up a homer in nine of his 10 starts, and he’s given up multiple homers five time already, including four in Friday’s win over Miami.
So there it is, my bet for the 2015 starting rotation is Lohse, Gallardo, Garza, Peralta and Nelson. What do you think the rotation will be next year and am I crazy for going this high on Nelson after one start this year?