Hit Tool Separates James Nelson

Best Player

Third baseman James Nelson, who ranked No. 18 among Marlins prospects to start the year, has vaulted up toward the top of the list thanks to a strong first full season at low Class A Greensboro.

Nelson, just 19, flashed all-around hitting ability in his first 63 games this year, hitting .320/.367/.476 with five home runs, 18 doubles and 37 RBIs. The Marlins drafted him last year in 15th round out of Cisco (Texas) JC.

A converted shortstop, Nelson is a work in progress defensively at the hot corner, making 13 errors in his first 58 defensive games this year.

But it’s Nelson’s hit tool that excites the Marlins.

“The way his bat stays in his swing path so consistently is why he’s doing well,” Greensboro manager Todd Pratt said. “He’ll face better pitching as he moves up, but velocity doesn’t bother him. He has a good feel at the plate, and he adjusts well.

“He’s very mature for his age—he’s a man. And he’s athletic and physical.”

Biggest Leap Forward

Trevor Richards, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound righthander who turned 24 in May, was signed with the Marlins from the independent Frontier League in 2015 and has risen rapidly.

Through 15 games this year, including 13 starts, Richards went 8-4, 2.33 with 87 strikeouts in 81 innings and a 0.98 WHIP. The Marlins promoted him from high Class A Jupiter to Double-A Jacksonville on June 23.

“He profiles as a starter with a steep angle on his fastball and a changeup that is above-average,” Jupiter pitching coach Jeremy Powell said. “He does a good job speeding up batters and slowing them down. He has command of both sides of the plate, and he’s good under pressure.”

Richards had struck out 9.7 batters per nine innings while allowing just 7.0 hits and 1.9 walks.

“His breaking ball is his third pitch, but he continues to find spots in games to throw it and make it a weapon,” Powell said. “He’s on his way to having three plus pitches.”

Powell said he likes players who come from the independent leagues.

“They’ve been through the grind,” Powell said. “They’re hungry.”

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