Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:

NFL    NBA    MLB

Already have an account? Log in here.

[X]

Forgot Password


[X]

Jimmy Nelson - What's Brewing After a Year-Long Absence?


If you’re an advocate to abolish pitchers hitting in the National League, you might use Jimmy Nelson as a prime example. During a breakout season in 2017, Nelson slid into first base during his September 8 start, jamming his throwing shoulder. Diagnosed with a rotator cuff strain and partial anterior labrum tear, Nelson was put on the operating table to undergo surgery. It was a devastating blow to a Milwaukee Brewers team trying to win the NL Central division, which they ultimately lost, but it was a more significant blow to Nelson’s career.

Still recovering from surgery, Nelson was held out of the entire 2018 campaign as the team proceeded with caution with their prized hurler. For a player entering his prime years, this kind of injury derailment is not only frustrating, but it’s a big cease in momentum that Nelson was going to carry in as a 28-year-old for a contending team.

Posting a career year in 2017, the right-hander took massive steps forward in many areas to solidify himself as an ace for the Brewers. He ended the season going 12-6 with a 3.49 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 199 strikeouts in 175.1 innings. Not only were these stellar numbers compared to his previous two full seasons, but there was also plenty under the surface that suggested Nelson got robbed of more than an abrupt end to his season. Almost a forgotten name in early fantasy drafts, let’s rewind to 2017 and remind ourselves of the impressive season that Nelson delivered to see if he can bring value in 2019.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our season-long articles, 15 in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of expert DFS research/tools. Sign Up Now!

 

Strikeout Surge

Entering his third full season, Nelson honed in on his craft and saw far superior results than ever before. Utilizing a four-pitch arsenal, he features the four-seam, sinker, slider and curve. He shattered his previous season’s work as a strikeout arm with his 27.3% K%, which was nearly 10% higher than his 2016 total. These stats might make you raise an eyebrow, so we must dig in to determine how this happened.

Nelson changed up his approach a little bit in 2017. Instead of relying on the sinker to get the majority of his outs, he went to the curveball more. He threw the sinker 46.8% of the time in 2016, dialing it down to a 34.9% mark in 2017, while his curveball percentage went up over 7% to 19.9%. He used this pitch to be effective against left-handers and it worked. Lefties only hit .183 off this pitch; his strikeout numbers against LHB skyrocketed from 16.2% to a whopping 30.2%.

A weapon Nelson carried over from 2016 was his slider, which was his best pitch regarding swing-and-miss ability. Generating a 34.2% Whiff/Swing, he used this more frequently against right-handers, especially as his punch-out machine, going to it 35% of the time when he was ahead in the count.

Nelson also increased his velocity on his four-seamer by half a percent up to 94.6 MPH. Not a dramatic increase but enough to get his WHIFF% to jump from 9.75% to 13.53%. This swing-and-miss ability likely went up due to keeping hitters off-balance with his two breaking pitches. Holding the slider and curve in his back pocket, it was easier for him to blow a fastball by a batter when they thought a breaking ball was coming. Having a complete arsenal like Nelson did in 2017 is a terrific recipe for strikeout success and it's imperative that he keeps up this method of attack for his impending fantasy value.

 

Batted Ball Beast

The Brewers ace had an unusually high BABIP in 2017. In 2016, his mark was .299, a league average number, but it shot up to an odd .340 despite having his lowest Barrel% (4.0%) and exit velocity (85.3%) of his career. His BABIP put him as the second-highest number next to the soft-throwing Clayton Richard. Nelson has always been a groundball machine, but in 2017 he stepped it up a notch. Utilizing his sinker to perfection, his career 1.67 GB/FB seen improvement in 2017 with a 1.84 mark, good enough for a top-seven finish. While it is true that groundball pitchers tend to have a higher BABIP than fly ball pitchers, the .340 hit against him was still way too high.

Given his top-five soft contact rate (22.3%), it was extremely unlucky that he gave up as many hits as he did two years ago. Statcast also agreed, putting his expected batting average at .236, over 20 points lower than his batting average against (.257). Going hand-in-hand with his inflated BAA was his ERA. Nelson had an xFIP of 3.15 and a FIP of 3.05, much lower than his 3.49 ERA. These low peripheral numbers are likely attributed to the Brewers defensive woes that season. The Brew Crew had the second-most errors in 2017 with only 22 defensive runs saved. It would have been interesting to see what Nelson could have done with Milwaukee’s much-improved defense in 2018, which had a mammoth 116 DRS.

Nelson’s soft contact and groundball tendencies also helped him improve on keeping the ball in the ballpark. Pitching in hitter-friendly Miller Park is no easy task, but he actually fared better at home in this regard. His 0.57 HR/9 was nearly twice as good as his 1.12 road split, and his combined 12.6% HR/FB was a slight improvement on his 14.5% mark in 2016.

 

What Looms In 2019?

After a year and a half since the shoulder procedure, Nelson is on track to be ready for spring training. The good news regarding his shoulder injury was that he hurt himself being a baserunner, not a pitcher. If he had gotten hurt on the mound, it would be much more concerning moving forward. Nelson has had a strong bill of health his entire career, the only other time he’s landed on the disabled list was when he took a line drive off his head in September of 2015.

It’s no guarantee that Nelson will return to his All-Star caliber production in 2017. It would be naive to think that there would be no rust to shake off after more than a full-year absence from the majors. The truth is we don't know what we're going to get out of the now 29-year old. What we do know is that Nelson has had success before and knows what it takes to get both strikeouts and batted ball outs. The most important thing to watch for in spring training is how good his breaking pitches are, as that's the key to his strikeout success and where a lot of his fantasy value will be. An elbow injury would have more of an effect on this ability, but seeing how it's his shoulder recovering, it should be less of an issue.

As of now, it's his rotation spot to lose, but keep in mind the Brewers will likely keep his innings in check. With Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta, Milwaukee has a plethora of alternatives for Nelson in the rotation, so they can afford to take it slow with their former star pitcher. It is foreseeable that he’ll be skipped in the rotation every once in a while to keep him fully healthy, especially if the team is in line for another playoff run. If Nelson can channel his 2017 form, he’ll be a steal at his current ADP of 267 even with limited innings. It’s a low-risk gamble but one that can pay off handsomely in the late rounds of your draft.

More 2019 Fantasy Baseball Advice




More Recent Articles

 

Key Starters and Tough Calls - Lineup Spotlights for Week 15

Welcome to Week 15, RotoBallers! Below you will find some of my spotlight plays and tough lineup decisions for the upcoming week of the fantasy football playoffs. These player selections are based on my Premium Weekly Lineup Rankings, available as part of the RotoBaller's NFL Premium Pass. Enter promo code KING at checkout for a... Read More


Week 15 Panic Room: Outlooks for Slumping and Injured Players

As you set your Week 15 fantasy football playoff lineups, there may be some players who make you feel very uncomfortable about starting them. Based on recent lackluster performances, injuries, or just an intangible bad vibe, it's a struggle to insert them into your lineup in a do-or-die week. But you may also nervous be... Read More


Drew Lock: Is He Ready For Fantasy Football Playoff Consideration?

There is much excitement in Denver after Drew Lock put on an air display at Houston last week. In just his second NFL start, the rookie threw for 309 yards and three TD passes, all in the first half, as the Broncos stunned the AFC South leaders, 38-24. The final score doesn’t indicate what type... Read More


Survive and Advance: The King's Guide to Fantasy Football Playoff Sanity and Success

As the playoffs progress in the NFL every season, media coverage ramps up. By the time we get to Super Bowl week, it's become a full-blown circus. There are microphones and recorders being shoved in players' faces at every waking moment, and the questions never stop. As the fantasy football playoffs move ahead, there is... Read More


Red Zone Sleepers and Busts - Week 15

We are at a crucial point in the season. Hopefully, your team is still alive, but there is always an opportunity to get your team in shape before that final push! As fantasy owners, we know that not all touches are equal. A touch in the red zone has an increased chance of scoring a... Read More


QB vs Pass Rush Matchups To Watch - Week 15

Week 15 is here, and the fantasy playoffs are rolling. Some head into the fantasy semifinals as big favorites but others are scrapping to keep their season alive. Real teams start at quarterback, and the position is pretty important for fantasy as well. Quarterbacks have changed the game for fantasy football this year with guys... Read More


Wide Receiver Matchups To Target In Week 15

In Week 14, DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas were the high-end options that came through with solid performances, both finishing in the top-five even though they had fairly tough matchups. A.J. Brown finished as the No. 1 receiver on the week, scoring two touchdowns off of just seven targets, while Darius Slayton and Emmanuel Sanders... Read More


Woos and Boos - Starts and Sits for Week 15 Lineups

The trend of fresh faces being among the tops of the fantasy scoring leaderboard continued in Week 14. Across the skill positions, we saw players that took advantage of plus matchups and excelled for fantasy owners during the first week of the playoffs. Mitchell Trubisky and Drew Lock came out of nowhere to finish inside... Read More


Inside the Tent - Week 15 NFL Injury Insight

At RotoBaller, we can't stress enough the importance of keeping up with injuries and playing your best lineup week after week. Players are going to get injured, that's an unavoidable fact. What's avoidable though is making the wrong roster decisions based on the injuries surrounding your fantasy squad. If you want to dominate your leagues... Read More


NFL Matchup Ratings Tool - Weekly Player Projections

  If you see the red "Upgrade" button below, then you are not a Premium subscriber, or have not yet logged in. Learn more about our NFL Matchup Ratings and projections system. Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of... Read More


Fantasy Football Starts and Sits: Matchups Analysis for Week 15

Welcome to our Week 15 matchup analysis and start/sit column for fantasy football. We'll be covering every single contest from the Sunday slate in one convenient location, helping you make the best decisions for your fantasy lineups. Be sure to check back regularly because this article will be updated as news comes in regarding injuries and other... Read More


Week 15 Fantasy Football Staff Rankings

Below you will find all of RotoBaller's fantasy football weekly rankings, tiers, player news and stats for the 2019 NFL season. Our Ranking Wizard displays our staff's rankings for various league formats, all in one easy place. Here's what you'll find: Weekly PPR Rankings Weekly Half-PPR Rankings Weekly Standard Rankings Dynasty League Rankings     Fantasy... Read More


Fantasy Football News and Injuries - Running Updates

Below is a quick-hit list of running notes on relevant injuries and player news, including pre-game reports and live in-game updates. Stay tuned for updates all throughout the week and on Sunday morning game day:   Week 15 Jared Cook (concussion) practiced in full. D.J. Chark has officially been ruled out for Week 15. Adam Thielen... Read More


All-Day For the Win: Why Adrian Peterson Matters Again

I don't think anyone could ever be happy at any sports player getting injured. It just makes no sense, so please leave the hatred out now and forever when it comes to that. That being said, though, we're talking about just a branch of sports here with fantasy football, and we all know what is... Read More


Fantasy Football IDP Rankings for Week 15 (Top 100)

One of the great things about implementing IDP in fantasy football is that it balances out some of the insanity that the offensive players produce in some weeks. If you started a lineup with Jimmy Garoppolo, Raheem Mostert, Boston Scott, A.J. Brown, Darius Slayton, and Noah Fant then you undoubtedly crushed your opponent while a... Read More