James Jacob Nelson
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 5", Weight 243 lb.
- School University of Alabama
- High School Niceville High School
- Debut September 6, 2013
Pitcher Jimmy Nelson made it to the majors in 2013.
Nelson's parents both played sports in college; his father played football and track at the University of Florida and his mother was a basketball player at Florida State University. As a high school junior in 2006, Jimmy was 8-0 with a 1.48 ERA. The Cincinnati Reds took him in the 39th round of the 2007 amateur draft. He was 3-3 with a 6.26 ERA as a college freshman at the University of Alabama, posting a WHIP of almost 2. He made the Texas Collegiate League All-Star team in summer ball, though. As a sophomore at Alabama, the righty went 2-3 with two saves and a 4.58 ERA. He excelled for the DeLand Suns that summer and was picked as a Florida Collegiate Summer League All-Star after leading the FSCL with 75 strikeouts. As a junior in college, Jimmy improved to 9-3, 4.01. He tied Drew Pomeranz and Drew Smyly for 4th in the Southeastern Conference in wins and tied for 6th with 98 strikeouts. The Milwaukee Brewers selected Nelson in the second round of the 2010 amateur draft, the 64th overall pick; he was the first Milwaukee pick to sign as first-rounder Dylan Covey did not. Joe Mason was the scout credited with the signing.
Nelson was 2-0 with 3 saves and a 3.71 ERA for the 2010 Helena Brewers but struck out 33 in 26 1/3 IP. Baseball America named him the #14 prospect in the Pioneer League, between Garrett Gould and David Holmberg. In 2011, Jimmy was 8-9 with a 4.38 ERA for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. He was among the Midwest League leaders in walks (65, 4th), strikeouts (120, tied for 9th with Manuel Soliman), runs allowed (81, tied for 3rd with Austin Kirk) and earned runs (71). Among Brewers farmhands, he was 6th in whiffs (between Frankie De La Cruz and Nick Bucci) and 3rd in walks (after Amaury Rivas and Josh Butler).
Nelson split 2012 between the Brevard County Manatees (4-4, 2.21) and Huntsville Stars (2-4, 3.91), with only a .213 opponent average for the year. He missed most of July with a right shoulder rotator cuff strain. On August 2, he teamed with Dan Merklinger, R.J. Seidel, Darren Byrd and Brandon Kintzler on a no-hitter against the Chattanooga Lookouts; it marked the most pitchers for a Southern League no-hitter. Nelson had four walks and four whiffs in his four-inning start; Seidel got the win in relief. He then pitched for the Phoenix Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League. Baseball America listed him as the #5 Milwaukee prospect entering 2013 after Wily Peralta, Tyler Thornburg, Taylor Jungmann and Hunter Morris. He opened the year well with the Stars (5-4, 2.74, 72 K, 15 BB in 69 IP) and got promoted to AAA.
Nelson pitched the 7th inning of a 4-2 US win in the 2013 Futures Game. Relieving Eddie Butler with a 3-2 lead, he retired Ji-Man Choi but walked Jesus Galindo. Francisco Lindor followed with a double play grounder, though, and C.J. Riefenhauser replaced Nelson in the 8th. He finished 5-6 with a 3.67 ERA for the AAA Nashville Sounds. For the year, he tied for third in the Brewers chain in wins (with Jungmann and Tyler Wagner), tied for fifth in losses, 4th in walks (65, between Jungmann and Frankie De La Cruz) and first in strikeouts (163, 32 more than #2 Ariel Pena).
He was then promoted to the big leagues as a September call-up. In his debut on September 6, 2013, he entered in the bottom of the 6th with a 7-2 deficit against the Cubs. He retired Logan Watkins, Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney in order. He had another 1-2-3 inning in the 7th against Anthony Rizzo, Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney to cap a fine introduction to The Show. Scooter Gennett batted for Nelson in the 8th. He had no record and an 0.90 ERA in four appearances for the Brewers that year. He picked up his first career win on May 25, 2014 when he was called up to make a spot start against the Miami Marlins. He pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings and was backed up by a 4-for-5 day by Ryan Braun as Milwaukee prevailed, 7-1. However, he went only 2-9 that season, making 12 starts in 14 appearances. His ERA was a high 4.93, and most of his starts took place in the second half, when the Brewers' offense was sputtering, a deadly combination. He had done much better in the minor leagues, being named the Pacific Coast League's Pitcher of the Year after going 10-2, 1.46 in 17 games with Nashville.
Nelson spent all of 2015 in the Brewers' starting rotation and was one of the team's better pitchers, staying around .500 with an ERA under 4.00 for a team which was mired in last place in the NL Central almost from opening day. On September 17th, however, he was struck in the back of the head by a line drive off the bat of Tommy Pham of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 3rd inning. He was rushed to hospital but escaped serious injury, with only a bad bruise in the back of his head, although he ended up charged with his team's 6-3 loss. He went 11-13, 4.11 in 30 starts, logging 177 1/3 innings with 148 strikeouts. In 2016, he went 8-16, 4.62 in 32 starts, pitching 179 1/3 innings. His 16 losses led the National League, as did his 86 walks and 17 hit batsmen. In that last category, it was his second straight league-leading performance, after 13 in 2015.
In 2017, he had better results in the early going as the Brewers were surprise leaders of their division after two months. On June 2nd, he struck out 11 batters against no walks in a no-decision against the Los Angeles Dodgers; it was his second straight game with 10+ strikeouts and no walks, something he was the first pitcher in team history to accomplish. On June 18th, he pitched the first complete game of his career in a 2-1 win over the San Diego Padres. He continued to produce high strikeout totals, with another 10 whiffs in that game, against 2 walks and only 6 hits. On September 8th, he recorded his 12th win with 5 scoreless innings against the Chicago Cubs, but in that game, he jammed his shoulder after hitting a single and diving back into first base. The next day, he was diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff and torn labrum, ending his season. It was a huge blow for the Brewers, as they were in a tough race for a postseason slot. He was 12-6, 3.49 in 29 games. He had piled up 199 strikeouts in 175 1/3 innings.
The injury also affected his 2018 season, as the Brewers announced in December 2017 that Nelson would not start throwing again until spring training and as a result would not be ready for Opening Day. He ended up missing the entire season and only making his return to the mound half-way through spring training in 2019. He ended up pitching only 10 games that year, going 0-2, 6.95. He then signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Dodgers before the 2020 season, but missed all of that year as well. He was finally healthy at the start of 2021 and ended up pitching 28 times for the Dodgers, including 1 start, going 1-2 with an ERA of 1.86 and 44 strikeouts in 29 innings. However, injuries got the bets of him again, as he did not pitch after July 30th.
- Adam McCalvy: "Nelson bullish on returning ahead of schedule: Righty had surgery on right shoulder in September, expected back in June", mlb.com, February 16, 2018.