Brewers’ top prospect and pitcher Jimmy Nelson had visions of making the Major Leagues as early as 1993 when he was a child in Florida.
Fast forward to 2014 when he made his first appearance as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field against the team’s division rival Chicago Cubs.
“I started playing when I was four years old and yes it has always been a dream to get and stay in the big leagues,” Nelson conveyed to Brewers Farm Report via e-mail.
In addition, Nelson chooses not take his opportunity for granted and credits a variety of people for his early success.
“My family has always been there since day one and I am so blessed to have them,” Nelson said. “I appreciate everything they’ve done for me even though sometimes I know I wasn’t the easiest person to deal with.”
In his initial appearance, Nelson tossed two scoreless frames against the Cubs and had two further stints as a reliever before receiving his first career start September 28 at New York’s Citi Field.
It was the same stadium where he stepped on a mound of a Major League for the first time in his life when he played in the All-Star Future’s Game in July.
“It was fun to get a taste of that big league environment early on in the season,” Nelson said. “I was very honored to be selected to participate and it was a great experience.”
The University of Alabama standout pitched a scoreless seventh inning against the World Futures as the United States squad won 4-2.
Despite his early experience, Nelson remained focused throughout the 2013 season where he produced two ten-strikeout performances and a quick progression to number one among all Brewers’ prospects according to MLB.com.
“We as players try and concentrate on what we control and how we prepare,” Nelson said. “Rankings and stuff like that are nice but we can’t allow that to be a distraction.”
The preseason’s ninth rated prospect made a statement entering the 2013 with solid performances at both Huntsville and Nashville.
Nelson’s composure allowed him to strike out 163 and walk just 65 through 152.1 innings between Double A Huntsville and Triple A Nashville.
In his 27 starts, he notched two complete games while allowing 55 earned runs to give him a 3.25 ERA between both levels.
Nelson received a tough No Decision in an eight inning gem May 28 where he fanned ten Jackson Generals walking none and allowing no earned runs.
In addition, he matched his season-high during his final Nashville appearance August 31 against Iowa when he struck out ten and walked four in 5.2 innings to give him his tenth cumulative victory of the season.
“In both instances I had good command overall and had my secondary pitches working well,” Nelson said. “Also both times the defense did a great job of picking me up on multiple occasions throughout both games.”
Nelson learned from a tough transition between Brevard County to Huntsville in 2012 when his WHIP numbers jumped from 1.08 to 1.54.
“The adjustment is the level of hitters. They’re more selective and don’t miss mistakes as much. Also the zone from High A to Double A tightens up a bit and even more from Double A to Triple A,” Nelson said.
The pitcher’s adjustments paid off the following year when he produced a stellar 72:15 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 69 innings for the Stars.
In addition, he reduced his WHIP total from 1.54 in his previous Stars’ stint to 1.13 in his 12 starts in Huntsville.
“You have to even polish your game more and advance the way you pitch/use pitch sequences yet attack the zone and try your best to stay in pitchers counts,” Nelson explained. “You can’t change your mindset though, you have to stay aggressive and not allow the names of the hitters or what they’ve accomplished in the past effect the way you pitch to them.”
Nelson endured another adjustment when his contract was purchased by the Brewers in September and assigned to a relief role.
In his 88 total appearances in the Brewers’ organization, he made just 13 coming from the bullpen.
“I adjusted my routine a bit since I moved to the bullpen for most of the month and tried picking the brains of some of the relievers down in the pen,” Nelson said. “I picked up a few things from the guys down there that really helped me make the transition to the bullpen smoother.”
Nelson held opponents to one hit and no runs in his first three appearances as a member of the Brewers and struck out four batters through four innings.
The starter indicated his development during his climb up the organizational was due to a variety of individuals.
“It’s more of picking and choosing certain things from all the coaches and other players that you can implement in your routine or skill set,” Nelson said. “Certain tips or adjustments work for some people but don’t necessarily work for others.”
In addition, he noted his development is “like putting a giant puzzle together and the coaches all give you certain pieces and it’s up to you to put it all together the way benefits you the best”
Nelson was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds with the 39th round selection when he was an 18-year-old from Niceville, Fla.
However, Nelson made the decision to make college as a top priority prior to the Reds’ selection.
“I committed to the University of Alabama pretty early and put my education first on the list,” Nelson said. “The offer just wasn’t good enough for me to skip college and I’m glad it wasn’t in the long run.”
When Milwaukee drafted Nelson as a junior in 2010 with the second round selection, the Alabama pitcher seized the opportunity.
“I appreciate everything the University of Alabama have given me but I felt as if it was time. I knew that I could further advance my game in the minor leagues and polish up on things that I wasn’t so good at in college,” Nelson said.
“It was an opportunity I was excited for and a challenge I was ready to take on. That’s why I decided to sign so early and get the ball rolling in my development.”
Nelson demonstrated the ability to remain composed when Milwaukee assigned him to Pioneer League environment notorious for high ERAs.
In his first 12 professional games, he struck out 33 batters and walked 12 in 26.1 innings for the 2010 Helena Brewers.
“I really just tried to attack the zone and let my defense work. That’s really my goal no matter where I’m pitching,” Nelson said.
In addition, he maintained trust in his pitch combinations during the early portions of his career.
“I worked on using my two seam (sinker) more to try and force bad contact and keep the ball on the ground. A main goal was to try and get the batter to put the ball in play in three pitches or less. Therefore allowing you to go deeper into games and give your team a chance to win,” Nelson said.
Nelson also credited some of his hometown friends and former coaches for giving him the ability to stay focused.
“My old pitching coach back home in Florida always helped me a lot on and off the field also and I still stay in touch with him to this day. Also a close family friend back home that I always visit when I’m in town. They keep me grounded and give me good advice from a different perspective other than family,” Nelson said.