Spurring the Giants when they drafted him as a pitcher in the 31st round in 2014, Nelson opted to play both ways at Gulf Coast State (Fla.) CC, where he won 13 games and hit 19 homers in two seasons. After the Yankees signed him away from a Florida commitment for a below-slot $350,000 in 2016's fourth round, they had him focus all of his efforts on the mound. He progressed from Class A to Triple-A over the past two seasons despite missing the start of '19 with shoulder soreness.
Nelson's best offering is a 92-96 mph four-seam fastball that climbs as high as 98. After generating plenty of groundouts earlier in his career, he focused on working up in the zone more often last season, when his groundout/airout ratio dipped to 0.6 from 1.1 the year before. His hard curveball can be a plus pitch at times, but it has trouble finding the strike zone at others.
Nelson's changeup/splitter and slider/cutter also feature power and can be weapons, but they also lack consistency. Though he's strong and athletic, he's still working on repeating his delivery and locating his pitches where he wants. The Yankees will continue to develop him as a starter, but he would require less polish and move more quickly as a hard-throwing reliever.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 40 | Overall: 45
Nelson turned down the Giants when they drafted him as a pitcher in the 31st round in 2014 in favor of playing both ways at Gulf Coast State (Fla.) CC, where he won 13 games and hit 19 homers in two seasons. The Yankees signed him away from a Florida commitment for a below-slot $350,000 in the fourth round in 2016, and his stuff has improved since he has focused fully on pitching. Though he lacks polish, he reached Double-A and led New York farmhands in strikeout rate (10.7 per nine innings) in 2018.
Nelson misses bats and generates groundouts with his power repertoire, which starts with a 94-98 mph four-seam fastball that he can maintain into the late innings. His hard curveball often works as a second plus pitch though there are times when he can't land it for strikes. He also has a low-90s splitter and an upper-80s slider/cutter that have their moments but similarly lack consistency.
Though Nelson is strong and athletic, he's still figuring out how to repeat his delivery and command his pitches. He's tough to hit but gives up too many walks, and more advanced hitters may not chase his secondary offerings out of the strike zone. The Yankees plan to continue developing as a starter but he could make a big league impact sooner as a hard-throwing reliever.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
The Giants drafted Nelson as a pitcher out of Rutherford High (Panama City, Fla.) in the 31st round in 2014, but he opted instead to stay home and play both ways at Gulf Coast State (Fla.) CC. He won 13 games and hit 19 homers in two years with the Commodores before signing with the Yankees for a below-slot $350,000 in 2016's fourth round. Though he led the low Class A South Atlantic League with 12 losses in his first full pro season, he showed progress by posting a 3.47 ERA in his final 13 starts after getting lit up for a 6.34 ERA in his first nine.
Nelson's best pitch is a 92-98 mph fastball with ground-ball-inducing sink, and he shows the ability to carry his velocity throughout his starts. His hard curveball could give him a second plus offering if he gets more consistent with it. He's in the early stages of refining a changeup with splitter action to combat left-handers after rarely needing it as an amateur.
Strong and athletic, Nelson would have continued as a two-way player had he transferred to Florida rather than turning pro. He's still figuring out how to repeat his delivery on a regular basis, though he did cut his walk rate from 9.3 per nine innings in his 2016 debut to 4.5 last year. Though New York will continue to develop him as a starter for now, there's a good chance that he'll wind up as a power reliever.