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Athleticism Helps Separate Nick Nelson

Top prospects Estevan Florial and Deivi Garcia were locks to be added to the Yankees’ 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. The other five names weren’t a reach to the organization because each showed enough in 2019 to warrant the addition.

One of those was 24-year-old righthander Nick Nelson, a 2016 fourth-round pick out of Gulf Coast State (Fla.) JC, who topped out at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for four starts.

Nelson overpowered hitters with a fastball that reached the high 90s and a developing changeup. About the only thing that slowed his climb was a right shoulder problem in April that forced him to the injured list for 45 days.

"He has a power arm with all four pitches,’’ vice president of baseball operations Tim Naehring said of Nelson, who was headed to Florida as a pitcher and first baseman when scouting director Damon Oppenheimer convinced him to sign.

"You look at the numbers and the glaring thing is he really needs to (decrease) the walks. He pitches with emotion and an edge.’’

At this point Naehring sees Nelson as a starter after 17 of his 18 appearances this season were in that role. Others view him as a reliever.

"I can see where they are coming from,’’ Naehring said. "I think he is still a starter at this point. You always have that (bullpen) option to fall back on.’’

Nelson recorded a 2.81 ERA in 89.2 innings while striking out 114 and walking 43—or 4.3 per nine innings. Shaky control might have been connected to inconsistencies in the 6-foot-1, 195-pound righty's delivery.

"His head jerks (during delivery) and keeps him off balance which hurts his command,’’ a scout said of Nelson, whom the Giants drafted in the 31st round out of high school in Panama City, Fla., but didn’t sign.

Oppenheimer said Nelson is helped by his athleticism.

"He got it together this year,’’ Oppenheimer said. "He is a legitimate starter and a good athlete.’’


— The Yankees hired Rachel Balkovec as a minor league hitting coach. She is believed to be the first full-time female minor league coach.

"She will be working with hitters in both Tampa (at the Yankees' complex) and the (Dominican Republic),’’ said farm director Kevin Reese of Balkovec, who held part-time strength and conditioning positions with the Cardinals and Astros. "Her background should help integrate ideas from performance science and strength and conditioning as well.’’

Balkovec, 32, played softball at Creighton and New Mexico.

Elijah Dunham Billmitchell

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