Designated to Milwaukee’s rookie club in Helena later that season, Nelson would go 2-0, posting a 3.71 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 26.2 innings pitching in just his first minor league season. His performance would be enough for Baseball America to rank the power right-hander as the Brewers’ eighth overall prospect heading into the 2011 season.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Nelson on a number of different topics, ranging from his draft-day experiences to his favorite food. The following conversation contains everything Brewers fans need to know about the youngster.
Jimmy Nelson’s Favorites
AD: If you had to choose, what is your favorite movie of all-time?
JN: Well, Forest Gump is a good one. Inception is another one of my favorites.
AD: Favorite food?
JN: Any kind of seafood, really. I’m a big pasta fan, too.
AD: Alright, last one: do you have a favorite quote that you base your game off of?
JN: Not really. I have a bunch of favorite sayings I base my game off of, but, there’s not really one quote that I really focus on.
Jimmy Nelson: Growing Up
AD: What influence did growing up in Niceville, Florida have on your love for the game of baseball?
JN: Its a very baseball-rich area. There’s a lot of talent that comes out of that area, and there’s also a lot of really good coaches, which I think really helped me a lot growing up. I was always on pretty good teams, which helped make my a lot better and gave me that opportunity to get a college scholarship.
AD: Did you always want to be a pitcher?
JN: I mean, I did play a little bit of first [base] too, but when I was a kid I always threw. I was always one of the harder throwers in my age group. When you’re a tall, big kid, you tend to get funneled into that position as a pitcher whenever you’re big and you throw hard.
AD: How was your hitting?
JN: Oh, I don’t know. The last time I hit was in my freshman year of high school. We had designated hitters, so there wasn’t really much of a need. I wasn’t terrible, though.
AD: I understand you were actually drafted by the Cincinnati Reds back in 2007, but did not sign. Why?
JN: Yeah they drafted me right out of high school. It wasn’t enough money for me to sign, and it wasn’t enough money to skip college. I mean, I wanted to go to college to get a lot better to mature and grow into my body. I felt like I could get more after I’d proven myself. I was really excited about going to Alabama, too. They have a great staff and great facility and everything like that.
AD: How successful was the team when you were playing?
JN: We were always good. We were always the team that doesn’t have that many big-name players, but we always end up scrapping it out and fought until the end. We won a lot more games than we were expected to. We made it to regionals every year I was there, and then we made it to the super-regionals my junior year.
Jimmy Nelson: The 2010 Draft
AD: Back at the 2010 Draft, who was the first person to call you to let you know you’d been selected by the Milwaukee Brewers?
JN: I mean, the area scout called me that morning of the draft and said, “if we take you in this round will you sign for this much?” All I said to him was yes and that was pretty much the extent of my conversation. Before the Brewers came around I knew there were some other teams that were interested in me and passed me up.
I was 99 percent sure the Brewers were going to draft me, though. I was happy about it. It’s one of the best times of a prospect’s life. Just going through that process is very exciting and it’s just the beginning, really.
AD: Give us a breakdown on the pitches you throw.
JN: Well, I throw a sinker and a four-seam fastball, and I’m anywhere from 93-95 mph.
I’m primarily throwing sinkers, but I also have my slider — which has gotten a lot better. I went anywhere from 84 mph in college to 88-86 mph now. I’ve really developed my change-up this year, and that was probably one of the big points of this whole season. It’s gotten a whole lot better.
AD: So, developing your change-up has been the only real stress-point from the coaches of late?
JN: Yeah. Stuff-wise we’ve been working with the change-up because my other three pitches are pretty good. You know, the change-up is just a “feel” pitch and for a power-pitcher, that can be pretty hard to do.
AD: If you had to choose one word to describe your style of play on the mound, what would it be?
JN: Competitive. I wanted to say “intense”, but I’ll say competitive.
AD: Now, obviously scouts and “experts” around the country like what they see in you. Do you pay attention to the prospect rankings?
JN: Yeah, I mean, I appreciate it, but, you really can’t pay attention to that kind of stuff. We really try to shy away from that kind of stuff. We don’t need any distractions. I mean, we hear about it and just because we’re a rated prospect doesn’t make us any more likely to make it to the big-leagues than anybody else in the system. It’s just one of those things you know about, but we just try to ignore it.
AD: What are your expectations heading into next season? Do you know where you’re going to start?
JN: No, not really. No one really knows where they’re going to start. I mean, hopefully I’m able to get to double-A at some point this year. But, you never know what can happen. I mean, there’s some systems that guys go from single-A to the big leagues in one year. Its all just up to me to perform and do what I can, really.
AD: What are your career goals?
JN: I mean, of course I want to be in the big leagues as long as I can. I want to be able to help whatever team I’m with. Obviously, I want to win a World Series. Of course, everyone wants to have a 10-year big-league career, and every pitcher wants to win a Cy Young [award]. But if you ask anybody, getting to the big-leagues and staying there is the goal. Getting there is just half the battle, staying there is ultimately what I want to do. You know, just having a good career and being able to help people any way I can, and help the team as much as possible, really.
AD: Thanks for the insight, Jimmy. I really appreciate it.
JN: No problem, man. Anytime.
Alec Dopp covers the Milwaukee Brewers as a featured columnist on Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @alecdopp.