Brewers: What’s next for Jimmy Nelson?

Matthew Dewoskin
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 15: Jimmy Nelson #52 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on June 15, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 15: Jimmy Nelson #52 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on June 15, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) /
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After almost a year and a half on the shelf, Jimmy Nelson finally made his return to the Milwaukee Brewers 25-man roster. It didn’t go quite as planned, so where does that leave Nelson and the Brewers for 2020?

The Milwaukee Brewers will have to decide if they want starter Jimmy Nelson in the fold for 2020 in the next 24 hours. Nelson has been a part of the organization since he was drafted in the second round in 2010, but there’s a non-zero chance that he’s thrown his last pitch for the Brewers. Should he stay on the roster for 2020, and if he does, what role should he fill?

How did 2019 go for Nelson?

Well, Nelson threw his first pitch in a professional game since 2017, so the season was a success in that regard. In every other regard, Nelson’s season was rough.

He split most of 2019 between rehab, the Major League roster, and…getting sent back to Triple-A.

Nelson tossed 22 innings for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019. He posted a 6.95 ERA between three starts and seven appearances in relief. Nelson struck out 26, walked 17, and was tagged for four homers.

Last year, his velocity on his fastball was down 1.2 MPH when compared to 2017. His slider was missing almost 3.0 MPH.

In Triple-A, Nelson threw 40 1/3 innings between four starts and 12 relief appearances. He managed a 4.69 ERA, struck out 57, walked 24, and gave up four homers.

What’s his contract status for 2020?

Nelson is in his final year of arbitration eligibility. He’s expected to earn a salary in the $3.7 million range if the Brewers choose to tender him. However, there’s a good chance that Nelson won’t be retained at that high of a salary.

Nelson is a non-tender candidate, but he may be brought back on a lower salary given his familiarity with the organization.

If Nelson comes back, should he start?

It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Nelson starts another game for the Brewers, but stranger things have happened. The Brewers had to press Jake Faria, Burch Smith, and Alex Wilson into service. If the team has another rash of injuries and Nelson is still on the roster, he could get another chance.

Nelson is better served as working as a reliever at this point in his career. He worked 10 innings in relief for the Brewers, and his ERA out of the bullpen was only 3.60. He struck out 13, walked seven, and was tagged for two homers as a reliever.

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Nelson is only 30 years old and could spend the rest of his career working in a long relief role at the Major League level. If he wants to start, it’s probably best for the Brewers and Nelson to part ways, but if he’s willing to continue to work in relief, he could continue his career in Milwaukee.

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