Chasing The Dream:The Jimmy Nelson Story and Interview
Jimmy Nelson: Quick Stats
Height: 6′ 6″, Weight: 245 lb. Born: June 5, 1989 in Niceville, Florida
Drafted: Milwaukee Brewers in the 2nd round of the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft
Favorite Player: Roger Clemens
Chasing The Dream: The Jimmy Nelson Story
As we inch closer to start of spring training our next feature takes a look at Jimmy Nelson as he inches himself closer to becoming the next member of the Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation. Nelson, who has looked up to Roger Clemens has the makings of a power pitcher just like “The Rocket” on the mound.
Nelson’s name first was seen on the professional baseball map back in 2007 when he was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 39th round. The right-handed pitcher had starred at Niceville High School in his hometown of Niceville Florida. During his senior campaign, Nelson helped lead Niceville to a 22-5 record and a number 19 national ranking in the country by USA Today. Perfect Game rated Nelson as the 125th best prospect in the entire nation. Following his senior season and his selection by the Reds, Nelson had to make the choice on the next step of his baseball life. He chose college and prepared himself to play baseball at Alabama.
In his first two seasons, Nelson split time as both a starter and as a reliever. He even found himself closing some games as a member of The Tide bullpen. In his first two years he finished with a 5-6 record and a 5.45 ERA while posting strong strike out numbers, 76 in 79 innings. Entering his Senior campaign there was high expectations placed on Nelson as he was expected to be a front line starter for The Crimson Tide. In his 17 starts, Nelson was a workhorse pitching 110 innings while posting a 9-3 record on the season to go along with a 4.01 ERA.
As Alabama battled its way through the College World Series regionals, the 2010 MLB draft was set to take place. Nelson had been through this process a few years before but this time around his name was much higher on scouting directors draft boards across the league. With their second round selection the Milwaukee Brewers selected Nelson. Nelson first concentrated on finishing his college career strong with Alabama before looking to ink any professional deals.
Nelson went on to sign with the Brewers in late June. The Brewers quickly sent him out to Helena to get some work out of the bullpen. In 12 appearances, Nelson went 2-0 with three saves in 26.2 innings. Out of the pen he posted a strong strike out rate of 11.14/9 innings. While this gave Nelson a taste of professional baseball, his first full year would be his first true test of adjusting to the longer grind of a professional season.
Milwaukee assigned Nelson to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers to start the 2011 season. Nelson would become a workhorse and a consistent presence in the Rattlers rotation during the season. The right hander started 25 games and logged 146 innings for the Rattlers while posting an 8-9 record. During the season Nelson struck out 120 batters and registered a 4.38 ERA.
Following his consistent season in Wisconsin, Nelson was promoted to Brevard County of the Florida State League. Playing in his home state of Florida, Nelson got off to a successful start. In 13 starts (81.1 inning) for the Manatees the right hander went 4-4 with a 2.21 and upped his strikeouts to 8.52/9 innings. The Brewers liked what they saw in the first half of the season enough to promote Nelson up an to the AA level. Nelson started ten games for the Huntsville Stars. While his numbers were not as good as they were with the Manatees they were still solid. Nelson finished with a 2-4 records and a 3.91 era in his ten starts. He also continued to post a solid strike out rate of 8.22/9 however his walk rate did skyrocket to 7.24/9. Part of the blame for the higher numbers could have been due to fatigue. Nelson was shut down with shoulder fatigue during the second half of the season.
Nelson is committed to his health and has worked hard this off-season to be healthy during the 2013 season. In December, Nelson left his Niceville home for Texas where he began working out with a group of other professionals including Jameson Taillon and Zack Dodson (who we have featured on CTD) on a daily basis. He plans to continue this routine until it is time to report for spring training. Nelson’s arsenal of pitches feature two fastballs. A four seam fastball that can hit the upper 90’s as well as a sinking two seam fastball. Nelson also features a change-up and a slider, Baseball America rated Nelson as having the best slider in the Brewers organization in 2011.
Seven Questions with Jimmy Nelson
1. Your were drafted twice. What was it like being drafted? Where were you when you found out? Did you do anything to celebrate?
I was fortunate enough to be one of those guys to be drafted out of high school. I just don’t think at that time I was ready physically, mentally, and mature enough yet to sign with the Reds. So I decided to go to college. Those three years in college were really good years for me, I grew up there. It was an honor for me to be drafted following my Junior year again by the Brewers.
I was in our training room at the Univ of Alabama doing some arm treatments and exercising. At that point we had won our regional and were about to go to Clemson for our super regional. We saw it come across on the computer and it was pretty cool. Some of the baseball guys where in there with me at the time. No, (I didn’t celebrate) at that point we had to focus on Clemson. I had to put the draft and everything on the back burner and focus on the upcoming game.
2. What mix of pitches do you throw? What is your biggest strength?
I throw two different fastballs, a four seam fastball and a sinking fastball. I also throw a change-up and slider. My biggest strength would be the movement on my pitches. I try to get the barrel of the bat off the ball and induce weak contact let the guys behind me make me look good.
3. Heading into 2013 what is the biggest thing you need to work on to improve on the mound?
For me getting and staying healthy for a full season. For me that is the number one goal. I lost site of that a bit last year and because of it I ended up missing a month of the season with some shoulder fatigue. I don’t want to miss time again. That was the first time I’ve ever had to miss some time.
4. What do you do in the offseason to prepare for 2013? Do you work with any teammates or friends?
I don’t work out with any other Brewers here in Tomball. There are two groups that work out here. One early group and one that starts about 10/10:30. Everyone here plays professional baseball and I’ve become close with all of the guys. Last year was my first year out here and it helped me a lot. I wanted to come here longer this year so I came out here in December and I wont leave until spring training.
5. What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Getting to know different guys from different backgrounds. I was with most of the 2010 draft class in Rookie Ball and Low A. We won the Pioneer League in Rookie Ball. Getting to know all those guys, the backgrounds, schools and where everyone comes from. I got a taste of two different teams last year…..I got to see the jump from High A to Double A.
6. Throughout your development as a pitcher is there a particular coach or instructor who has helped you out along the way?
Truthfully, It’s all of them. I don’t think there is one coach that will tell you everything that comes out of his mouth is going to help you. I think its more like you take bits and pieces from each coach that you ever played for and take what works with you. You can take something from one pitching coach and another pitcher takes something different that you would never do. They really do the best they can to develop you. They might teach you a drill, a grip for a pitch, anything. Things just start to click as you put all those pieces of the puzzle together from all those different coaches. Its been my second full season and the Brewers have some really good coaches that have helped give me those pieces.
7. You had an opportunity to play in the Arizona Fall League this season. What was that experience like for you and what did you learn from it?
It was a good experience. It was after a long season and everyone is a little tired but it rejuvenates you. You get to play with all new guys and you get to meet a bunch of guys from different teams and backgrounds again! Your playing against some of the top talent in the Nation. It’s pretty cool to go out their and compete against some of those guys.
A Few For Fun
Who was your favorite baseball player growing up?
Roger Clemens – I really liked his mentality, his work ethic and his bulldog presence on the mound.
Who is your favorite non-baseball athlete?
Adrian Peterson – Coming back from his knee surgery and doing what he was able to do this year. I admire the humble athlete who works real hard, competes and works their butt off. I try to model myself after that kind of athlete.
Biggest Prankster You have come across in your career?
Ohhhhh – We actually had a couple of guys in the fall league. I don’t want to give any names here so I’m going to keep their identities secret. One guy who plays for the Rays and another guy who plays for the Braves, both relief pitchers. It must be something about relief pitchers, they have a lot of time down there so they are always thinking of something to do. I guess that is why they become the pranksters. They know who they are if they see this story!
Why do you wear your number?
#40 – I grew up being number 22 because of Roger Clemens but as I got older everyone was wearing number 22. Once I got to college it was taken so I went to 20. My Sophomore year one of my buddies want 20 so I doubled it and went to 40 and its worked for me ever since.
A special thanks to Jimmy Nelson for taking some time out of his off-season schedule to answer some questions after a busy day of off-season work outs. We look forward to following him all season long and into the future as he works his way towards his professional debut with the Brewers. Please give Jimmy a follow on twitter @Jimmy_J_Nelson and like us on Facebook and follow us on twitter @CTD_Sypien as we continue to feature and follow all of our featured players as they chase their way to the major leagues
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