The Los Angeles Dodgers, already filled to the brim with pitching depth at both the major and minor league levels, have enough quality arms to take a flier on former Milwaukee Brewers ace Jimmy Nelson, who is trying his hardest to return to the pros after several years on the sidelines.
After a few years as an average starter in Milwaukee, Nelson’s 2017 season was remarkable, as he went 12-6 with a 3.49 ERA while coming up one batter shy of 200 strikeouts.
That year was good enough to land him in ninth place in the Cy Young voting.
However, a few concerning injuries have limited him to just 22 innings since the end of 2017, including missing all of the 2018 and 2020 seasons. Intrigued by his potential, the Dodgers have thrown him a bone as he tries to make it back to the pros.
The Dodgers officially added Nelson to their 40-man roster in a flurry of moves made late last night.
How can Jimmy Nelson help the Los Angeles Dodgers?
During his time with the Brewers, Nelson leaned heavily on a mid-90s sinker that was equally adept at both inducing ground balls and striking hitters out given how fast it was. With Nelson getting his velocity back up after rotator cuff injuries, he looks like the same type of pitcher he was in Milwaukee.
With the starting rotation full, Nelson’s best chance for success will likely come in the bullpen. Now that David Price is back in the rotation, the Dodgers might have cornered the market on long relievers with Nelson, Julio Urias, Dustin May, and Tony Gonsolin all potentially starting the season in the pen.
While the rest of the NL West is a giant question mark given the rebuilding Rockies, inconsistent Diamondbacks, and questionable Giants, the San Diego Padres are a legitimate title contender. A strong bullpen is key to fending them off, and Nelson should be able to beef up that back end if he can return to his old self.
Injuries robbed Milwaukee of one of the game’s best young starters, as Nelson pitched in just 10 games during his age 29-31 seasons. However, Dave Roberts has seen enough from Nelson to give him a potential shot with the big league club in 2020.
If the Dodgers are getting pre-arm issues Nelson, they will have an elite long reliever that can start a handful of games in case of injury, preventing the Dodgers from digging deep into their farm system in case of an emergency.