2. Jimmy Nelson returns healthy, picks up where he left off
The return of Jimmy Nelson would really solidify this rotation. Jhoulys Chacin, as stated above, is coming off a career year and needs to outperform his underlying metrics for a second straight season. Three other starting pitchers are entering their first year entrenched in an MLB level rotation. And then there’s Zach Davies at the tail end.
If Nelson makes it back and pitches like he did in 2017, this rotation goes from a young, inexperienced group to a potentially dominant rotation to be feared.
Nelson gives this rotation depth. Without him, the rotation is about six deep, and the sixth man is Chase Anderson, who has struggled with the long ball recently. Nelson gives the rotation an extra arm at its disposal, and a pretty darn good arm at that.
If Nelson pitches at or near where he left off in 2017, he’d be the equivalent of signing a free agent ace, only without the high contract. He’s a No. 1 or No. 2 starter at his best. The Milwaukee Brewers really missed him last season and he could’ve made a real difference not only in the regular season, but in the postseason as well. With only Chacin and Wade Miley as trusted starters in the postseason, Craig Counsell had to try unconventional strategies in order to get outs and get wins. A third trusted starter during those games would’ve made things a whole lot easier.
Bottom line, Nelson returning to dominance would be a big boost to this rotation and a key to their success this season. Counsell admitted the strategy used in September and October last year is not sustainable over a whole season. They need starters to go deep into games and Nelson is the last Brewers pitcher to throw a complete game. He’s a bulldog on the mound and the rest of the team feeds off that mentality.
Especially with the bullpen in the shape that it’s in right now with all the injuries, having another starting pitcher that can go deep into games is crucial to keeping everyone fresh.