7. Tyler Nevin (735 points, 32 ballots)
Tyler Nevin was figuratively born on third base when it comes to a good start in his path toward major league success as the son of former number 1 pick Phil Nevin, but he hasn’t rested on those laurels. Nevin has the triple threat of major league bloodlines, high draft position (38th overall in 2015 with a $2 million signing bonus), and minor league production (when he’s been healthy). The 21-year-old righty corner infielder also supplements that package with reports of plus make-up, which in theory provides a higher likelihood of a player maxing out his potential and raising his floor.
During his time in the system, the 6’4” slugger has been ranked more on pedigree than on production because of a series of injuries, including a hamstring injury that wiped out 2016 and a broken hand that lost him two months in 2017, not to mention the Tommy John surgery he had in high school. In 2018, Nevin lost another five weeks to a quadriceps injury over two separate DL stints as well, which doesn’t help the injury-prone narrative.
Nonetheless, when he has been healthy Nevin has produced excellent numbers against older minor league pitching, first in Asheville in 2017 and in Lancaster in 2018. In Asheville, Nevin hurt his hand right before the season but tried to play through it before finally going to the DL. If you look only at his numbers after coming off the DL in 2017, Nevin had a .336/.381/.523 triple slash with 26 of his 28 extra base hits in 220 ABs. In total, despite the injury-impacted season, Nevin posted a 136 wRC+ in Asheville.
In 2018, Nevin thrived in the friendly confines of Lancaster and the California League. Against High A pitching that was on average 1.3 years older, Nevin crushed the ball to the tune of a .328/.386/.503 line with 39 extra base hits (13 HR) in 417 plate appearances, which is an impressive 141 wRC+. After the aforementioned DL stints (one in May and one in June), Nevin again exploded offensively with an electric .359/.423/.544 line with 26 extra base hits (9 HR) over 237 at-bats in the season’s second half.
Nevin took advantage of his home park, but his .929 OPS in Lancaster was accompanied by a strong .851 road OPS (he actually boasted a higher batting average and OBP on the road). He feasted on lefty pitching (1.001 OPS) but was no slouch against righties (.850 OPS). He struck out 18.5% of his PAs and walked in 8.2% of them, similar to his 2017 rates. Defensively, Nevin largely ceded the hot corner to fellow PuRP Colton Welker (67 games at 1st, 17 at 3rd), making 10 errors between the two positions.
Best of all for Nevin in 2018 is that his season didn’t just end with a blistering hot second half. He was selected for the Arizona Fall League and if anything, Nevin was even hotter against top prospects across minor league baseball. In 71 plate appearances, Nevin paced the league in hitting with a scorching .426/.535/.593 line that included 6 extra base hits and a 3:1 BB/K ratio.
Here’s some video of Nevin in the AFL courtesy of 2080 Baseball:
To accompany the above video, Adam McInturff of 2080 Baseball had a full writeup of Nevin after the AFL, including granular tool evaluations. Here’s his summary:
Pressure on the bat given 1B-only profile, but has the tools to mash enough for an everyday role in the best-case scenario. Will need to grow into at least avg game power to reach his ceiling. Feel for the barrel is a real separator, has what it takes to be a longtime big leaguer.
John Eshleman of 2080 also had a profile of Nevin worth perusing, this one from April 2018.
In their recent system evaluation, Baseball Prospectus ranked Nevin 8th in the system with a 55 OFP/45 Likely role evaluation:
Health has been a limiting factor for Nevin since he was knee-high to a baseball-playing grasshopper. But he finally showed flashes of what he’s capable of with the bat last season. He wears the standard Lancaster caveat for last year’s when-healthy production, but he attacks hittable pitches in the zone well and he can hit balls that’ll get out of any stadium. He’s built long, square, and powerful, and the swing stays fluid off a long stride into the attack. He sprayed balls all over the place in Arizona in a rousing fall campaign, and has at least enough physicality and arm strength to keep giving him reps at third base.
Eric Longenhagen ranked Nevin 9th in the system with a 45 FV tag for FanGraphs in May 2018:
He has big, all-fields raw power and is adept at taking the ball the other way. He’s also likely to move from third to first, and he’s already seeing most of his playing time there because he and Welker are sharing an infield. Right/right first-base profiles are tough. Nevin has the pop to make it work, but he needs to keep hitting and show, over a larger sample, that he has the plate discipline to profile at first as well.
Growing up around the game helped Nevin develop advanced hitting skills for his age. He already works counts well and focuses on driving balls from gap to gap rather than worrying about home runs. He has a quality right-handed swing with bat speed and should develop plenty of natural power once he gets stronger and adds some loft to his stroke.
Nevin broke into pro ball at third base but given the organization’s depth at the position (beginning with superstar Nolan Arenado), he saw more action at first base in 2017. The Rockies like his actions and hands at third base, but his below-average speed and average arm fit better at the opposite corner.
It’s a bat first profile for sure, carried by what the evaluators agree is an advanced approach with good barrel control. In fact, the FanGraphs guys mentioned the hit tool might be a 70 grade in their post-AFL podcast (~69 minutes in). Despite the work he’s put in at the hot corner, Nevin seems destined for a first base role in MLB, which of course raises the pressure on the hit tool (and power to an extent) to come through.
I have a bias against first base prospects given that increased strain on the bat to come through and the injury history gives me pause, so ultimately I ranked Nevin 10th in the system with a 45 Future Value grade as a potential big league regular or platoon bat. Still, the hoopla from scouts around the AFL performance along with the pedigree and production have me warming to the idea of Nevin as a building block for the Rockies. Nevin will likely start 2019 in Double-A Hartford, where he will be striving to secure a 40 man roster slot after the season. My guess is he earns one and is firmly in Colorado’s 2020 roster plans in some capacity.