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Prospect Spotlight: James Nelson

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The 19 year old has put up some big numbers so far for the Grasshoppers.

Heading towards the draft, front offices are beginning to hone in on their next crop of talent. Before the wave of prospect coverage starts for the 2017 Marlins draft class, I want to quickly point the spotlight towards last year’s 15th round pick James Nelson. Consider it an interesting footnote to tuck away. One that may or may not pop back up later, but interesting nonetheless.

Nelson was drafted in the 18th round by the Red Sox out of high school in 2014, but decided to attend Cisco College as a shortstop. Two years later he was drafted by the Fish. The scouting report on him coming out of Cisco was that he has plus speed, a plus arm, and raw hitting ability. Scouts felt he was best suited to play 3rd base, and at 6’2” 180 pounds, his projectable frame and plus bat speed marked him as a potential power threat. The problem was that his swing was still raw.

What caught my eye about Nelson was the progress he has taken so far. After a good, but not eye-catching, 2016 season in the GCL, he put in work in the off-season. According to BaseballAmerica.com, he worked with his uncle Chris Nelson (who is a former Major League third baseman) to gain 15 pounds and refine his swing mechanics. The difference?

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Name Year Pick # Schooling Position Level now With the Marlins?
Name Year Pick # Schooling Position Level now With the Marlins?
Braxton Garrett 2016 7 Prep LHP GCL Yes
Josh Naylor 2015 12 Prep 1B A+ No
Tyler Kolek 2014 2 Prep RHP A Yes
Colin Moran 2013 6 College 3B AAA No
Andrew Heaney 2012 9 College LHP MLB No
Jose Fernandez 2011 14 Prep RHP N/A N/A
Christian Yelich 2010 23 Prep OF MLB Yes
Chad James 2009 18 Prep LHP AA No
Kyle Skipworth 2008 6 Prep C AAA No
Matt Dominguez 2007 12 Prep 3B AAA No
Brett Sinkbeil 2006 19 College RHP Retired No

To this point in the season Nelson is showing a lot more power. His ISO, wOBA, and HRs are already beyond his 2016 levels. Some of this is fueled by his bloated .438 BABIP, so he may be due for some regression, but even regressed the uptick in offensive production is noticeable. The only arguable negative is that his strikeout rate is up, but is not at a level warranting major concern.

At this point in the season, few statistics are reliable enough to make convincing predictions about future performance. There certainly needs to be more than 75 plate appearances before any further conclusions can be drawn. But as of now, he’s a 19 year old showing top level production who has been praised for his work ethic. In a farm system squeezed for talent, the James Nelson footnote may begin to get more attention in the coming months.