What do you make of a player like Nick Nelson?
Surely he isn’t going to be counted on as a major part of the pitching staff. If he is, something has seriously gone awry with the team during the season.
He’s not exactly that roster filler at the end of the 26-man squad, the one you don’t want to see come into games when it is on the line. Instead, he fills the role of mop-up guy almost to a tee.
Is your starter getting blown out of the water, yet you need to fill up innings to get you through the game? Nick Nelson is your guy.
Have you exhausted several of your relievers and you need to get this out in the sixth inning while hoping the game remains close? Nick Nelson is your guy.
2022 stats: 47 G (2 GS), 68 2⁄3 IP, 66 H, 38 R (37 ER), 22.6 K%, 11.8 BB%, 4.85 ERA (3.04 FIP), 0.2 bWAR
Without looking: how many home runs did Nick Nelson give up in 2022?
Would you have guessed only one?
Nelson is one of those guys who you would think would get pounded into dust, but he can actually throw a solid fastball and a not horrible slider. In terms of velocity, the fastball actually registered in 88th percentile in the game, something I definitely wouldn’t have expected. He wasn’t hit all that hard and rarely got barreled, so his only allowing one home run all year probably shouldn’t be all that surprising. He had more success last year throwing his fastball and changeup less while upping the amount of time he threw his slider, nearly tripling the usage (8.3% in 2021 to 24.2% in 2022). There is something there is a somewhat decent pitcher.
Every team has one of those white flag guys on its roster and as much time as I’ve spent extolling the virtues of Nick Nelson, he feels like yet another example of this type of player. If you see him trotting to mound in third or fourth inning, the game is either out of reach or someone has an injury, neither one a good outcome. If he’s coming in the game in the eighth or ninth inning, either someone is injured, the outcome has been decided or the manager must be truly desperate.
The problem with writing something in this section is that Nelson wasn’t exactly “bad”. He was just....meh. There wasn’t anything standout “good” about him, but on the flip side of the coin, there wasn’t anything standout “bad” about him either. He was just an ordinary, shows up to work every day and does his job average kind of pitcher.
He’ll stay with the team, not making much in terms of salary. His ability to throw either multiple innings a game or just get out a batter or two does give the team some flexibility. If they were to acquire someone else as an upgrade, does he stay? Maybe not. If the team wanted to give someone like Griff McGarry his job, a reliever who could go multiple innings or be effective for only one, would that be wrong? Not really.
Put it this way: until someone better comes along, there is a role for Nelson on the team where he would be somewhat useful. At the rate the team is acquiring pitchers for the bullpen, if Nelson isn’t already looking over his shoulder, he should start.
Final grade: C
Nelson was pretty much the definition of average. He didn’t do anything that would make the world stop on its axis, but he also was that guy every team needs to soak up innings here and there.