12. Tyler Nevin (521 points, 33 ballots)
Tyler Nevin’s production in the back half of 2017 is why I continue to rank struggling or injured prospects with pedigree, and Nevin has pedigree in spades. The 20-year-old corner infielder was drafted 38th overall in 2015 and signed to a $2 million bonus, plus he’s the son of former No. 1 overall pick Phil Nevin. The combo of major-league bloodlines and makeup in theory gives a higher likelihood of a player maxing out his potential, and that’s what the Rockies are hoping for with Nevin. He also has been universally lauded for his great makeup, another determinant in a prospect’s floor.
The reason voters had to rely mostly on pedigree until late in 2017 was because the righty 6’4” slugger was beset by injuries after a decent 2015 debut. Nevin had a perfect year at the plate in 2016; unfortunately that was because a very severe hamstring injury suffered in spring training limited him to just one plate appearance, a double for Short Season A Boise. In 2017, after a month of struggling in his first taste of full season ball in Asheville, hitting just .218/.319/.261 in 78 at-bats, Nevin went down with a wrist/hand injury that cost him another two months.
After a six game rehab assignment in Short Season A Boise, Nevin returned to Asheville with a clean bill of health and proceeded to destroy South Atlantic League pitching. Hitting against players who were 1.5 years older on average, Nevin’s second half hitting line in 220 at-bats was .336/.381/.523 with 26 extra base hits and 9 steals. In total with Asheville, Nevin finished with a .305/.364/.456 line despite the slow start, good for a 136 wRC+ while splitting time defensively at third and first.
There isn’t much video of Nevin available, but here’s some Spring Training plate appearances from 2016:
Nevin was among the top 20 prospects in the Rockies system according to Jeffrey Paternostro of Baseball Prospectus:
After missing all of 2016 due to a hamstring injury, the hard-luck Nevin missed a chunk of 2017 as well with a hand injury. When he was on the field in Asheville though, he hit. He’s playing more first base than third—which will put a lot of pressure on the bat—but it might be up to the task. And he’s already a large human, so it might have to. Nevin has enough raw power to carry a first base profile, but there’s some length to tap into it, so hit tool questions will persist. Despite the lost development time, he will still be just 20 on Opening Day 2018 and a full healthy season in the California League will help sort his future profile out.
Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs wrote this blurb about Nevin in August 2017 during his hot streak:
[Nevin’s] hitting well in Low-A, letting balls travel deep and hitting them the other way when the opportunity presents itself. Nevin hit for some power immediately after returning from his wrist issue, but his output has been full of singles since mid-July. That could be due to the wrist issue, as ailments in the hand/wrist often haunt power production for an extended time after return, but Nevin will have to hit for more power to profile at third base, and not all scouts are even convinced he’s going to stay there. For now, it’s at least very encouraging that Nevin is hitting in full-season ball after seeing no affiliated pitching since 2015.
Taller and more athletic than his father, Nevin has a chance to hit for power and average. Growing up around the game has helped him develop advanced hitting skills for his age, as he works counts and presently tries to drive balls from gap to gap. He has bat speed and plenty of room to add strength on his 6-foot-4 frame, so home runs should come naturally once he adds some loft to his right-handed stroke.
While there are few questions about his offensive potential, Nevin’s long-term defensive home remains in question. The Rockies believe his actions, hands and arm could work at third base but have played him more at first base this year. Additionally, his below-average speed and average arm probably fit better at first base or on an outfield corner.
Thanks to his hot second half, Nevin has gotten himself back on a reasonable development curve, setting up an assignment to High-A Lancaster in 2018 as a 21-year-old. He’s a potential big league regular (probably at first base) but more likely he becomes an interesting bench bat or weak-side platoon partner.
Overall Nevin’s prospect pedigree, tools, 2nd half performance, and scouting reports bump up against the cumulative injury history. I ended up ranking Nevin 15th in the system but he could easily jump into the top 10 with a healthy and successful 2018.