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Quick, what do Luis Severino and Jimmy Nelson have in common?

If you answered both have a strikeout rate above 24%, a walk rate below 6%, and the exact same FIP before Saturday’s slate of games, you’re correct! I’m a big fan of arbitrary thresholds for drawing comparisons between players, even when it works in the opposite direction of my above example. Why don’t we try another?

What do Bronson Arroyo and Jordan Zimmermann have in common?

If you answered they’re the only qualified pitchers in baseball with FIPs above 6, you’re correct! Also of note, Zimmermann is roughly 10% more owned than Arroyo. To all those out there who stopped managing your teams in week two, football season doesn’t start for another 13 weeks; you have no excuse.

Over the last few years, I would bet the majority of us have scratched the Jimmy Nelson itch at one point or another. Often returning mediocre to very mediocre results, we now find ourselves looking at Nelson among the league’s top 25 pitchers peripherally, wondering what we did to deserve the DL laden crop of arms that is 2017’s starting pitchers.

A lot has changed with Nelson starting with the altering of his delivery, which Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs breaks down very nicely at the end of his recent column on on the Brewers’ new ace. With an arm slot adjustment that reminds some of James Paxton’s below three-quarters alteration in June of last season, Nelson has seen an extremely attractive refinement of his control (10.7% walk rate in 2016, 5.8% walk rate in 2017). The reason we’re buzzing about Nelson now instead of back in April is because his first five starts of the season looked like the same old sub 8 K/9 tentativeness we became accustomed to. With a 4.44 FIP, his control refined only slightly down to 8%, with too few strikeouts to pay more than a passing thought of attention at roughly 18%, Nelson began 2017 as he had every other season. In Nelson’s most recent seven starts however, it’s a completely different story. Posting a 2.52 xFIP (FIP with league average HR/FB rate assumed instead of actual HR/FB) in a park that has buoyed left handed power for the last few season is impressive enough. Add to that a 24.6% strikeout minus walk percentage, and what we’re looking at has gone well past the fluke assumption the majority of Brewers fans likely held out of the gate.

In search of more tangible evidence for Nelson’s change in effectiveness outside of arm slot and refined control, we stumble upon a nice trend between his month-over-month curveball usage in 2017 and the resulting effects.

It’s important to point out that Nelson’s curveball jump has predominantly come against left handed hitters. The pitch, currently used 12% more often on lefties than righties, it’s a minor uptick from the prior year, but one with beneficial results in a park that buoys left handed bats. Nelson in 2017 has become a reverse splits pitcher, shown by the 62 point drop to .278 in his wOBA against lefties – thanks to that curveball – with his effectiveness versus right handed bats stagnant, and unfortunately below league average. Am I slightly worried that right handed bats are still Nelson’s crux (.352 wBOA against in 2017)? Yes, but not as worried as I’d be if Nelson was failing to mitigate the effects of left handed hitters in Miller Park. The fact that Nelson has lingered around the zone so much this season – nearly 51% of the time, fifth among qualified pitchers – is duly impressive given that his contact rate against is down 4.3% as well.

Whether this is the Brewers’ 28 year-old finally figuring out the mix of pitches that work best for him, or the result of the league’s lapse in quick adjustment to Nelson’s changes remains to be seen, but even as one digs below the surface, nothing is wildly concerning about the profile Nelson has put on display in the most recent months of 2017. With the state of pitching this season, nothing wildly concerning is as good of an endorsement as you’re going to get for an arm that was floating around waivers two weeks ago.

As I usually like closing out columns with a look at projected rest of season performance per the fantastic Razzball Player Rater, you can imagine I was a bit perplexed with why Jimmy Nelson was ranked 256th overall, projected for a poor 4.62 ERA with only 68 strikeouts over 78 more innings. With an adjustment likely coming that factors in Nelson’s many changes, the most important of which look to be above the stabilization window, I’m here to speculate on what that line may actually look like. Keep in mind, Mike Trout’s rest of season value has inflated since Steamer started assuming 70 games played rest of season instead of it’s prior sub-60 game total, which I detailed in my last column. Lesson to be learned? Keep reading my columns!

Here is what I think we can realistically expect from Nelson rest of season. The big difference between other projection systems and my optimistic beliefs is my confidence in Nelson’s strikeout rate and control playing up rest of season. Razzball has Nelson around an 8 K/9, while Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA has Nelson even lower. Rarely do we see a 24% strikeout rate backed up decently with a 10.4% swinging strike rate and meticulously refined control to raise the floor on his WHIP, turn out to be a complete fluke.

105 IP, 97 Ks, 3.8 ERA, 1.27 WHIP

This line has Nelson posting around an 8.5 K/9 rest of season with a bit more confidence in his current control sticking with a drop from the strikeout ceiling he has produced in the months of May and June. Placing him inside the top 40 starters rest of season around names like Michael Fulmer and Aaron Nola, I don’t think it’s crazy to think we’re looking at a pitcher of that caliber. If you want to be even more confident in the league taking its sweet time to adjust back, pushing Nelson to a 9-9.5 K/9 with a ERA more in the 3.6 area would get him into the top 30 around names like Steven Matz and Robbie Ray (per Razzball rest of season projections).

I like sticking to my optimistic baseline window on Nelson with hopes of more. If you can find a Michael Fulmer believer and get him to add another small piece with Nelson, I have no problem sticking on the Nelson side of that trade. As always, feel free to post any questions and comments below.

Follow me on Twitter if your heart desires, always talking baseball and fantasy @LanceBrozdow.

 
  1. jack florida says:
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    nice job, i am with you on Nelson

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @jack florida:
      Good to hear! And Thanks man.

  2. dfrench23 says:
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    Friend in last place has some good players to trade off in a (2-catcher) 5×5 roto (OBP, HR, R, RBI, SB – QS, K, ERA, WHIP, Sv+Holds) It’s a keeper league but can only keep MLB guys for 2 years. He has some players but hasn’t managed the fringe guys well….now is in last. He has $22 Grandal, $8 W.Castillo, $22 Abreu, $10 Merrifield, $13 Rendon, $10 A.Simmons, $14 Tulowitzki, $10 Moreland, $21 CarGo, $40 Bryce Harper, $10 Inciarte, $9 Pence, $10 D.Peralta, $5 Renfroe, and an injured $1 Bour.

    His staff includes: two second year guys Arrieta and D.Robertson. He has Volquez at $1, $10 Cotton, $29 Cueto, $10 Miranda, $10 Perdomo, $10 Wheeler and $10 Peacock.

    The other guys’ second year guys are: Realmuto, Altuve, Frazier, Andrus, N.Cruz, J.Villar (INJ), and J.A.Happ. His guys who might be worth keeping are: Thames at $1, Trea Turner at $2, S.Castro $10, C.Davis $26, Melky Cabrera $7, and some $10 guys picked up off FA are LoMo, Zunino, and Mallex Smith. His pitchers are $18 Cole, $10 Stroman, $7 M.Moore, $10 Chatwood, $9 Matz, $10 McCarthy, $10 Sabathia, $10 Giles and $10 Norris.

    The guy in 2nd place really wants Arrieta and Bryce Harper. I told my friend to NOT trade Bryce Harper even at the price unless he’s getting A LOT….I really suggested holding it to just trade offers that either start with Thames or Turner.

    Do you see anything?

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @dfrench23:
      Hey man,

      Just want a bit of a clarification on what exactly you’re asking.

      I’d be hard pressed to find a deal I liked for Harper personally, so I agree with you on that point.

      But Turner particularly at $2 I would have a ton of trouble giving up as well because that’s a fantastic price, same with Giles at $10 , $9 Matz, and a few others.

      Arrieta, Villar are two guys I was not high on to start the year and still don’t really like too much, which would have pushed me to trade him in this spot. But the issue that comes with that is you’re selling at a low point, which unless you’re extremely confident both won’t bounce back, isn’t the smartest thing to do.

      Let me know what some of the offers for Arrieta and others are man, then we can go from there.

      • dfrench23 says:
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        @Lance: 2ndPlace guy threw out there Harper and Arrieta for Turner and Moore. LastPlace guy nixed it. Other crazy (in my eyes) offers were: Altuve for Arrieta and Bour or Chris Davis for Arrieta. I advised him against both trades. Melky and Andrus for Harper and Bour was also mentioned…..

        2nd place guy doesn’t have a lot of experience. Last Place guy doesn’t either. He feels like his team is not a last place team but is asking for help in how to gauge offers like above….are they fair? I don’t think so. Are there others that jump out? I told him maybe Inciarte. Simmons and Arrieta for Turner, Melky and his choice of pitcher might get it done. I was wrong.

        • Lance

          Lance says:
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          @dfrench23:
          Those trades seem all over the place to me. I think I misread your first comment so my apologies too, I get what you’re asking.

          Off the bat, if he doesn’t have a lot of experience and the league knows that, make sure you get a lot of opinions on the offers he’s getting before he accepts anything. The last thing I’d want, new to a hobby like this, is getting fleeced. Play it safe, his team isn’t the best unfortunately, little too heavy, looks like he just caught a few duds this year.

          I’ll go in order (clarify if I misinterpreted what he has)….

          Giving Harper and Arrieta for Trea Turner and Moore = Harper side, hands down

          Giving Arrieta and Bour for Altuve = this isn’t crazy, I’d probably take Altuve side honestly. Depends heavily on your projection on Bour, but Altuve is still a first round bat to me.

          Giving Arrieta for Chris Davis = not crazy, but I’d want Arrieta

          Giving Harper and Bour for Melky and Andrus = this is stupid, the other owner clearly thinks your buddy is an idiot

          I’d throw Simmons and Arrieta for Trea Turner, which is right on track with what you’re saying.

          He’s gotta give you something reasonable for anything to get done and it doesn’t seem like those are the intentions at the moment haha

          • dfrench23 says:
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            @Lance: Thanks a bunch!

  3. Wacha Wacha says:
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    Nelson, sabathia, Hoffman, r hill, or c Anderson best option ros in your opinion?

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Wacha Wacha:
      Hill is the best pitcher of that bunch, but I think I have more faith in Nelson to amass innings.

      So it’d become a matter of what I needed, I’d lean Hill for sure, but if you’re worried about the blisters and just want a stable arm for innings, Nelson is fine. I believe I have them ranked Hill-Nelson at the moment.

  4. Russell says:
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    Hey really interesting write up on Nelson, a lot to consider.

    ROS how would you rank these 4?

    Nelson, Quintana, Matz, Taillon

    Thanks!

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Russell:
      Thanks for the read!

      This trio of guys is right in that tier above Nelson, that I mention in the last paragraph regarding hitting his peak.

      Roto I’d go Quintana, Taillon, Matz, Nelson

      Not a knock on Nelson though

  5. Rumham says:
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    Which one pitcher do you start this week? roto

    Bundy @CWS
    Bauer v. LAD, @MIN
    Hill v.@CLE

    I listed them from best to worst rated on S.O.N.

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Rumham:
      Good call using SON.

      I’d stick with it disliking Bundy the least, but I’m more confident with Hill in CLE, I’d put that above Bauer.

      Depends on your standing in the roto league too – if you just need Ks, go Bauer, but if safety, Bundy

  6. David says:
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    Please rank ROS: Maybin, E.Young, DeShields. Thanks

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @David:
      Maybin, Deshields – gap -EYoung

  7. Steve says:
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    Eugenio Suarez or Rougned Odor?

    If position isn’t a concern who do you like better ROS? 5 x 5 roto

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Steve:
      Odor

      Not dependent on position

  8. Matt says:
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    So, I’m intrigued by his breakout too. In a HTH dynasty (QS points but none for wins), would you deal a pitcher like Berrios or Snell for him? The guy that owns Nelson goes crazy for upside guys like that. Just not sure what pitcher in this format would be fair for Nelson… I’ll list my pitchers below-if you see someone that you’d consider fair value, I’d love to know!

    Chase Anderson, Snell, Berrios, Gsellman, Alex Wood, Taillon, Hoffman, Cotton, Jon Gray, Finnegan, Musgrove, Cotton, Maeda, Bauer. (Also milb Weaver and Paulino-although I dont have a free roster space!)

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Matt:
      Lot of dynasty questions like this are going to depend, for me, on the contention window of your team.

      If we’re just talking vacuum, I think I’d like to see this for a little bit more with Nelson before sending a Snell/Berrios type prospect for him. As I mention above, I still think the league is going to adjust back, and righties have been relatively effective off him even with these changes (he’s also 28 if that means anything to you).

      Seeing your SPs above though, you have a ton of youth, which makes me probably more willing to take a shot with Nelson over a lot of those guys, know that even if you miss with Nelson long term you still have a bit of a safety net with a ton of those arms.

      Rest of season, I’d take Nelson over all but Taillon, Wood, Gray, and probably Maeda.

      Lot of options here for you. Let me know what your investment is with this team

      • Matt says:
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        @Lance:

        I’m coming out of a rebuild-hence all of the young guys. Probably not a championship contender right now, but I’m hoping to move in that direction in the next year or two. Having a pitcher at 28 isn’t that big of a deal to me. I may be able to pull out a little more than Nelson too!

        • Lance

          Lance says:
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          @Matt:
          Then with your depth, I don’t mind taking a shot on Nelson. Try to get in one of the lesser touted young arms and I think you’re set up well to absorb a loss if Nelson doesn’t become a legit SP3.

          Best of luck man!

  9. Adam says:
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    Chris Taylor or Hernan Perez ROS?

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Adam:
      Probably a little more boring, but Hernan Perez

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