Prospect Watch: Time for Milwaukee to bring in Jimmy Nelson
The Milwaukee Brewers may sit atop the NL Central, but it may be time for them to make a change in their pitching. Their starting rotation has been good as a whole, but Marco Estrada is clearly a weak link. He's allowed a league-high 23 home runs this season. He has surrendered a longball in all but one of his 14 starts. Opposing hitters have taken him deep multiple times in exactly half of his outings; the Brewers are playing with fire if they continue to run him out there while he's allowing home runs on about one-fifth of his fly balls. His ERA is up to 4.82 and his FIP is pushing an even 6.00 in 84 innings. Luckily, Ron Roenicke has a ready-made replacement at Triple-A Nashville.
Jimmy Nelson barely made the top 100 in a few preseason prospect lists, but he has looked better than that ranking in 2014. In 83 1/3 innings in Triple-A with the Nashville Sounds, he's 7-2 with a 1.62 ERA, 2.61 FIP, 0.96 WHIP and 91 strikeouts against 26 walks. The 25-year-old has allowed one run or fewer in nine of his 13 starts this season, and has fanned at least a batter per inning eight times. That he has done all this in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League is all the more impressive. In 2013, Nelson hinted at what might come in 152 1/3 innings between Nashville and Double-A Huntsville. He split those innings just about down the middle and posted a 3.25 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 163 strikeouts.
Nelson, who's exceeded expectations this season, made a spot start during the last week of May, shutting out the Marlins across 5 2/3 innings and allowing five hits and three walks while striking out six. He certainly looks ready for an extended shot at the major league level, and if you have some roster space to play with, Nelson is a great stash for the second half of the season.
• For the time being, Eugenio Suarez has stabilized the shortstop position for the Tigers. In 33 plate appearances, he's hitting .346/.452/.808 with three homers, one double and one triple. He was very good before his promotion while splitting time between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo, hitting a combined .288/.360/.510 with eight bombs, 18 doubles and 36 RBI. There's reason to believe he can keep it up enough to be an asset in fantasy leagues for the rest of the season.
The soon-to-be 23-year-old Suarez has hit at every level of the minors. In six professional season before his promotion to the Tigers, he slashed .278/.362/.415 with 33 homers. He took some time to adjust to each new level, but improved markedly in his second season each step along the way. In his first run with Erie, in 2013, he hit just .253/.332/.387. He started there this season and hit .284/.347/.503 in 170 plate appearances. Perhaps the best sign of his development as a player is that he immediately took to the Triple-A level, amassing a .302/.404/.535 slash line in 52 plate appearances with Toledo.
As always, shortstop remains one of the shallower positions in make-believe baseball. The Tigers are 12th in the league in run scoring, and hitting ninth in the lineup puts Suarez just a few spots in front of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler. In other words, you could do worse. Suarez is definitely worth a shot in deeper mixed leagues.
• The Diamondbacks' Archie Bradley made a rehab start with the organization's rookie league team on Monday, striking out three hitters in a brief, three-inning stint. Bradley hit 93 mph with his fastball, and reported no issues with his elbow.
Bradley, the No. 9 prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America, was pegged early on by fantasy owners as a potential impact player this season. Unfortunately, elbow problems forced him to the DL at the end of April, and he has been working his way back ever since.
While this is definitely a step in the right direction, it's hard to say if he'll be of any use to fantasy owners in 2014. The Diamondbacks aren't, nor will they be, anywhere near the playoff race this year. Given that fact, the Diamondbacks are likely to be cautious with Bradley's prized right arm. He'll turn just 22 years old in August and still projects as a frontline starter and potential ace for the future of the franchise. Even if he proves himself healthy, there likely is not a realistic timeline that puts him in the majors with enough time to help fantasy owners. He's universally owned in dynasty leagues and is worth stashing in typical keeper leagues, but those of you in redraft leagues can feel comfortable keeping him off your radar.