Written by Mark Firkins Photo by UCSB Baseball
The Cleveland Indians rely heavily on their ability to scout, draft, and develop players in their farm system. Being a small to mid sized market in MLB, it is crucial to Cleveland’s success and future to nurture, develop, and prepare their minor league talent for their eventual trip to the show.
Kyle Nelson, Lefty Relief Pitcher, is exactly the type of talent the Indians are looking for. They one day expect him to pitch out of the Progressive Field Bullpen.
Nelson pitched his collegiate career at the University of California Santa Barbara. He was definitely the top arm out of the UCSB Bullpen. In 2014-15 he led the team in appearances with 25. In 36 innings pitched, he posted a 3-1 record, 2 saves, 32 strikeouts and a miniscule 0.75 ERA. 2015-16 saw his workload increase and the results stayed impressive. He made 33 appearances, pitching in 74.1 innings of relief. His record was 7-2, 10 saves, 87 strikeouts, and a 2.18 ERA. In 2016-17 Kyle pitched in a starting role. He made 15 starts for the UCSB Gauchos. He pitched to the tune of a 6-4 record over 87.1 innings, with 69 strikeouts and a 4.53 ERA.
Kyle Nelson definitely was a player the Indians saw a lot of when they were scouting fellow UCSB Pitcher Shane Bieber (drafted by Cleveland in 2016). Nelson was drafted in 2017 in the 15th round and made his professional debut with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers of the NY-PENN League.
Kyle pitched exclusively out of the Scrappers bullpen and made 19 game appearances. He threw 29 innings of solid relief with a 3-2 record, 4 saves, 2.48 ERA, and impressive 40 strikeouts.
Nelson is a hard throwing fastball pitcher with an excellent slider. I had the opportunity to see Kyle pitch 7 times at three different venues this past summer; Eastwood Field, home of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Dwyer Stadium (Batavia Muckdogs) and Falcon Park (Auburn Doubledays). One of the benefits of viewing games at the NY-PENN League level is being able to get up close to the field and action. You can roam the small stadiums baseline to baseline, and get a different view. You hear the chatter in the dugouts and bullpens. You can for a moment, stand behind the home plate seats, get a peek at the radar gun, pitching charts, stat sheets and perhaps, catch a glimpse at what the parent team is looking for.
Kyle steadily hit the radar gun in the mid to upper 90’s, hitting 97 mph several times with his fastball. Keeping batters guessing, he mixes in a slider that slows down to the low and mid 80’s. He was dominant against left handed hitters, striking out 18 and keeping them to a .154 batting average. Right handed hitters didn’t fare much better, striking out 22 times and hitting only .214
Kyle impressed the heck out of me during the 5 times I saw him pitch between August 18th and September 5, 2017. In those 5 appearances he pitched 7 innings, striking out 15, and gave up 0 earned runs. During the August 18th game, he faced 7 batters, striking out 6, all on only 22 pitches!
With his blazing fastball, tricky slider, and ability to get batters from both sides of the plate out, Kyle reminds me of Andrew Miller, another dominant Lefty relief pitcher the Indians currently rely heavily on.
The Cleveland Indians are the type of team that traditionally doesn’t use match up pitchers. They look for players who can be used as weapons. They look for players who get the job done, regardless of what side of the mound they throw from. If Kyle continues his current pattern of play, he will be the type of pitcher the Indians can depend on in the future.