Friday, June 27, 2014

Bringing Your AAA Game - Jimmy Nelson & Alex Meyer

If you are reading this, congratulations!  You survived my first blog post and lived to tell about it.  Hopefully, you found it helpful and if not, I am going to keep posting these until you do! Yeah, you!  I see you there.  Quit reading about baseball and get back to work.  On second thought, please don't because you will miss out on all the fun I have in store for you today.  If you love pitchers that are close to the majors, this is for you.  Let's get this party started with a little Jimmy Page, er, Nelson!

Jimmy Nelson


  • Postion: SP
  • Level: AAA
  • MLB Position in 2014: SP
  • Stats: 90.1 IP, 1.79 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 27 K%, 7.6 BB%, 2.89 FIP
  • 2014 Fantasy Impact: 5/10

The Lowdown

https://flic.kr/p/cbts9o
Flickr- BeGreen90
Nelson is the top prospect in the Brewers system!  Before you get too excited, you should know the Brewers have the second worst set of prospects in MLB (sorry Angels fans).  But, Nelson has clearly been dominating AAA this year, so he deserves our attention.  With most teams, Nelson would have been up weeks ago, since starting pitchers get injured as often as the Kardashians are in the news.  Unfortunately for him, the Brewers have had the healthiest rotation in all of baseball this year.  The Braves, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and others would love to have Jimmy in AAA to fill out their rotations.  Not only have the Brewers starters been healthy, but they have been good.  They have the 11th best rotation in baseball by ERA.  So, where does that leave us?  An injury to a Brewers starter would be the easiest path to a job for Nelson.  In fact, he pitched 5.1 innings in a spot start for a briefly injured Yovani Gallardo in May.  If you see a Brewers starter go down, pick up Nelson.

If their starters continue their freakishly good run of health, Nelson could still supplant the home run king of baseball, Marco Estrada.  Estrada has conceded 24! home runs this year.  If batters against Estrada were one player, he would lead MLB in homers.  Now, Estrada has stayed around this long because in spite of the dingers, he has posted above average strikeout rates (21.5%) and average walk rates (7.4%) and his xFIP is a run lower than his ERA, meaning that if you bring his very unlucky home run rate down to league average, you can knock a run off his horrible 5.22 ERA.  The problem is, his home run problem has been around for years and it isn't going away.  His fastball just isn't that great and sits at 89 mph.  Fourteen of his home runs have come off fastballs.  He's not going to suddenly start throwing 95, so this is probably what he is: a league average pitcher with a home run problem and an ERA that will always be around 4-4.5.  The Brewers have a lot of faith in him, though, so they are sticking with him despite all of that.  What all this means is that there is still a very real chance (75%?) that Nelson replaces Estrada after one more bad start.  As with most pitching call-ups, look out for when Nelson's AAA starts line up with Estrada's starts, because then you will know it's coming soon.


Fantasy Impact
Whenever Nelson is called up (my best guess is just after the all-star break), what can we expect?  Unfortunately, we only have one start worth of Pitch F/X data on him (the minors don't have Pitch F/X).  In his start in May, he threw his 93-mph fastball and his slider and barely threw anything else, which is more of a reliever pitch mix.  He also has a two-seam fastball and a change-up in his arsenal.  He is a big guy at 6'5", 245 pounds, so he can handle lots of innings.  Scouting reports are very mixed on him, with some saying he varies his release point and mechanics too much to have good control, but others see his above average fastball and slider and improving change up and see good potential.  For me, he will live and die by two things: his walk rate and his change-up.  He needs to keep the walks down because he doesn't have the super dominant stuff that others have and the change-up is the best way for him to get groundballs and get opposite-handed hitters out, which are absolutely required for any good pitcher.  If a pitcher lacks that kind of pitch, they end up in the bullpen.

I think Nelson is ready for the major leagues and for your fantasy roster.  Don't expect him to come in and dominate, but a 3.5 ERA is not out of the question with 8 K/9, and an average walk rate.  Steamer projects him for a generous 9 K/9, 3.19 ERA, 4 BB/9 and a 1.34 WHIP.  I like my K/9 and ERA estimates a little more, but we're all in the same ballpark (bam! baseball pun!).  I think he is in the 40-60 range for starters when he's up.  I would drop someone like Jake Peavy, Matt Garza, Tyler Skaggs, Edwin Jackson, or Wei-Yen Chen for him, if that gives you a good idea of his value.  Jose Quintana would have about equal value to Nelson, if you ask me.

Parting Shots
If you are in a 10-team league or lower, you just need to keep an eye on Nelson, don't run out and replace an established veteran with him just yet.  He needs to develop his change up and prove he can have good command at the MLB level.  If you are in a 12-team or deeper, I would take a chance on him and drop one of the guys I mentioned above for him, or someone in that range.  Remember, if you pick him up you have to accept the reality that he may struggle to adapt at the MLB level, but his moderate upside might be worth it.  If you are stashing him, you should probably pick him up in the next week or it might be too late, but watch the timing of his starts with Estrada's and watch for any injuries.

Alex Meyer


  • Postion: SP
  • Level: AAA
  • MLB Position in 2014: SP
  • Stats: 71.1 IP, 3.21 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 26.4 K%, 10.8 BB%, 3.78 FIP
  • 2014 Fantasy Impact: 5/10

The Lowdown

https://flic.kr/p/g2n8VB
Flickr - BeGreen90
Meyer is the best pitching prospect in a deep Twins farm system.  He is tall like Nelson and shares Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson, so there has long been rumors of Meyer's call-up.  He could be the best pitcher in that rotation as early as next year.  He needs to learn to keep the walks down and he is tall and lanky, so he comes with some injury concern.  If it's upside you want, Meyer's all about upside.  Scouts are much higher on Meyer than Nelson due to the better velocity, four inches of height, and pedigree, along with having better "stuff." Meyer is #24 on MLB top 100 list, while Nelson is #66.  I was about to write how Meyer has a better pitcher's park than Nelson, but then I looked at the ESPN park factors and found that Miller Park is actually much better for run suppression than Target Field and is almost identical for homers, so no advantage there for Meyer.
Nelson's K-rate and propensity for walks, only even worse.  Scouts say he has the best fastball and curveball in the Twins system.  His no-seam (yeah, that's right no seams) fastball is truly plus at 95+ mph and his curveball is also excellent, with elite numbers of rotations and should work on both right and left-handed batters.  He is 6'9", so he can generate a huge amount of downward plane on the ball.  He has shown great talent for getting ground balls, too.  The Twins rotation has been flat out terrible this year outside of

For more great info on Meyer, I highly recommend these two Fangraphs articles: http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/alex-meyer-progresses-impresses-in-arizona/
http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-success-rates-of-arizona-fall-league-all-stars/

The first one is a detailed breakdown of Meyer's dominance at the Arizona fall league last year against Kris Bryant, Mookie Betts, Addison Russell and other amazing prospects.  The second is a great article to have in your back pocket when evaluating prospects.  Basically, Arizona fall league all-stars have much lower bust rates than prospects in general, and Meyer was on that all-star team.

Now, the Twins are 5th in line for the final wild card spot, but only 4.5 games behind the Mariners for that last spot, so it's hard to get a read on whether they are going to push for the playoffs or take it easy with their young talent yet.  Either way, Meyer is probably behind the Twins' more polished and ready AAA pitcher, Trevor May, who I will get to next time, so don't expect Meyer to be up until May has had some time to get his feet wet in the show.  I wouldn't count on him before August, and September is probably the most likely, unless there are injuries to the Twins staff.

Fantasy Impact
For 2014, Meyer is just some late-season boost for your pitching staff, not someone that is going to give you a ton of help.  I'm just not confident that he will be the majors long enough to give you more than 4 starts.  I expect him to be better than Nelson when he gets there, but Nelson will probably be up sooner, since he doesn't have May waiting in front of him.  I would have given Meyer a 7/10 if he were called up in early July because I really think he is going to strike out a lot of hitters, but I bumped him down due to the lack of starts.  Keep an eye on his walk rates in AAA the rest of this year.  In his most recent start, he struggled and lasted just two innings and his BB/9 is up to 4.29, which is too high, even with his strikeout ability.  If he can keep that around 3.5 or better, I think he will be ready to slot right in as the Twins 2nd best pitcher right away (I don't believe in Gibson's stuff and think he will regress).

Parting Shots
Should you stash Meyer?  I would say no for most leagues, he is just not going to have an impact until late in the season.  In keeper and dynasty leagues, he is probably already taken, but if not, get him now.  I'll wait.  Did you get him?  Good.  His K/9 has been over 10 at almost every level of the minors, so he should always be good for strikeouts.  If he is not called up by mid-August and I needed a boost to my strikeouts or K/9, then I would stash him for the nearly inevitable September call up.  The walks make Meyer riskier than Nelson, but with way more upside.  Do you like stocks or bonds?  Roulette or blackjack?  It just depends on whether you want the more polished pitcher with lower upside or the high-upside walk-prone pitcher.  

Before I go, I want to introduce a new feature that I think will be helpful in keeping track of all of these prospects.  I will keep an updated board of the order I would prioritize the prospects I have mentioned.  This list is for 2014 only.  If you are looking further out, you will just have to decide for yourself or ask me later.  Now, the Hawk Harrelson (famous, infamous? White Sox announcer) Bringing Your AAA Game leaderboard:

You can put it on the board.......YES!!!! Prospect Leaderboard
1. Mookie Betts  2b/OF/SS  (I just discovered that Mookie qualifies at SS in Yahoo! Yippeee!)
2. Alex Meyer  SP
3. Jimmy Nelson SP
4. Garin Cecchini 3B/OF

Bringing your AAA Game - Mookie Betts & Garin Cecchini

Check back next time for two more pitchers (yeah, almost all the call-ups and top prospects left this year are pitchers).  As always, thanks for reading and Tschuss!

I am still dipping my toes into the Twitter waters, so I'm not active there, but you can find me as WisconsinsWestCoast on Reddit and the fantasy baseball subreddit.  I'm happy to help with your fantasy baseball queries.
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