Under the Radar Yankees Prospects: Pitcher Nick Nelson


Yanks Go Yard is combing through the New York Yankees minor league system in search of hidden gems in this ongoing series. Today, we look at pitcher Nick Nelson.

Nick Nelson’s first season with the Yankees didn’t go as smoothly as one might have hoped, but the 20-year-old righthander showed enough promise during his professional debut to make him an interesting breakout candidate for next season.

Taking Nelson in the fourth round (128th overall) in this year’s June amateur draft was seen by some as a reach. Baseball America had him ranked all the way down at 325 on their top 500 back before the draft. Since he ended up signing over $100,000 under-slot, it’s possible that the pick was somewhat financially motivated, helping the Yankees save their pennies for big fish first rounder Blake Rutherford’s enormous stack of cash.

Still, Nelson is a legitimate prospect who currently pairs a mid-90’s heater with a promising curveball. He was previously selected by the San Fransisco Giants in the 31st round of the 2014 draft, but ended up spurning their offer to pitch for Gulf Coast Community College in 2015.

He pitched 24.1 junior college innings prior to being drafted by New York, allowing eight earned runs, walking 11, and striking out 22. Interestingly, he was a two-way player for GCCC, hitting .339/.369.540 with seven homers in 207 plate appearances. There’s no indication that the Yankees think he has a future anywhere but on the mound however.

Assigned to the Pulaski Yankees in the Appalachian League, the 20-year-old Nelson managed to put up a 3.38 ERA over his 10 starts (21.1 IP), but that number is very misleading. Nelson walked 22% of the batters he faced (9.3 BB/9!), collecting more free passes than strikeouts in his first taste of the minors.

Along with most of the 2016 draft class, Nelson participated in the Fall Instructional League. The Yankees coaching staff usually doesn’t begin tweaking the mechanics of their draftees until having a sustained look at them in their first season, and it seems like Nelson is a prime candidate for some adjustments.

Patrick Teale of Pinstripes Plus (subscription required) reports that Nelson has begun work on adding a third pitch to his repertoire, a changeup, during Instructs. Nelson also told Teale that the organization’s coaching staff had worked with him to correct some issues with pitching out of the stretch, which he believes will help improve his command issues next season.

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Because he’s a two-pitch pitcher (at least for the moment), Nelson seems like a decent bet to make his mark as a reliever long-term, but there’s no harm with seeing what he can do as a starter in the meantime. Adding the change is a development worth watching. He seems to be ticketed for the rotation of the Low-A Charleston Riverdogs in the Sally League next year.