The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLBPipeline.com Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLBPipeline.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2014.
A 6-foot-5 right-hander who will turn 25 in June, Nelson would happily follow in Peralta's footsteps.
Nelson has been considered a top Brewers prospect since the team made him a second-round Draft pick in 2010 out of the University of Alabama. Nelson's most recent season may have been his finest; he was 10-10 with a 3.25 ERA in 27 starts between Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville before a promotion to the Majors, where he posted a 0.90 ERA in three scoreless relief appearances and one respectable start.
That debut start came Sept. 28 against the Mets at Citi Field, and while Nelson settled for a no-decision in a 10-inning Brewers victory, his five-inning, one-hit, one-run performance offered optimism.
"It wasn't pretty," said Nelson, who walked three batters in the game and battled bouts of extreme wildness he attributed to slick baseballs, "but I tried to do my best to keep us in there and give us a chance to win, and we did that. We ended up scrapping it out in the end."
Did Nelson look ready for the big leagues?
"It may be too soon, but we'll have discussions on that," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said that day. "He probably could use going back to Triple-A for a bit, but I don't know the circumstances we're going to be in. ... He's coming along fast, but I think he needs to pitch some more. He's got good stuff. I like him."
Nelson threw 72 pitches against the Mets, 39 strikes, and "he had a lot left," Roenicke said. "He's a guy who I think is going to carry out his stuff late in the ballgame."
Unlike Peralta, who was essentially assured a spot in the Brewers' pitching rotation at this time last year, Nelson may have to wait for a midseason callup. The team would have to spend the first of his three Minor League options to send him down in Spring Training.
Nelson was one of 39 right-handed pitchers on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list, the most represented position.
Brewers officials have been more vocal lately about touting their prospect pipeline, pointing to recent successes like Peralta and Scooter Gennett. But Milwaukee was one of two teams (Oakland) with only one prospect in MLB.com's Top 100. The Angels were the only team with no representatives.
At the top of the list was Twins outfielder Byron Buxton, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts and Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, in that order. The Red Sox had nine players in the Top 100, but the Houston Astros amassed the most "prospect points" in a system that assigned 100 points for the No. 1 player, 99 points for No. 2 and on down to one point for No. 100.
MLB.com will also release updated team-by-team Top 20 Prospects lists soon, and Nelson will remain at the top position.