In Ryne Nelson’s opinion, he would still be a very good defensive shortstop, if given the chance.
As for his hitting? That’s a different story.
“I was an all-around bad hitter,” Nelson said.
So after his sophomore year at Oregon, he went from a position player who also occasionally pitched to a pitcher who focused solely on the mound.
After exhibiting dominant stuff as a junior, Nelson was the D-backs’ second-round pick in 2019.
The 23-year-old Nelson has made strides with his command and control since his junior year, when he walked 41 batters, while striking out 104, in 65 innings. He has impressed the D-backs with how quickly he has been able to improve and repeat his delivery.
“I’ve just been focused on being more efficient with my mechanics and how I attack hitters by trying to throw more strikes,” Nelson said. “That comes with smoothing out my mechanics . . . while also being able to repeat them.”
He said that includes being more online to the plate, while also staying on his backside more to create more drive toward the plate.
Given Nelson’s background as a position player, it is no surprise the D-backs believe athleticism has played a large part in his ability to make quick adjustments.
“He seems to just have a much better feel for his delivery and his body and what he’s trying to do out there,” D-backs farm director Josh Barfield said. “He’s attacking. He’s got a pretty electric fastball—one of the best fastballs in our system—and he’s coming right at guys. It’s been really fun to watch.”
At instructional league last year, Nelson’s fastball sat in 94-95 mph range and touched 96. Barfield said the pitch also has good carry through the zone. Nelson said his curveball and slider are “constantly trying to beat the other one” for his best secondary pitch while his changeup has improved.
“Just the work ethic, the drive to improve and want to get better,” Barfield said. “He’s showing the ability and the potential to be a long-term major league starter.”