10. Tyler Nevin (423 points, 22 ballots)
Tyler Nevin has the triple threat of major league bloodlines (son of number one overall pick Phil Nevin), high draft position (38th overall in 2015 with a $2 million signing bonus), and minor league production (when he’s been healthy). The 22-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. That’s why he earned a spot on the 40-man roster this offseason.
That’s the good news. The bad part is that Nevin has been hampered by injuries (2019 was his first full season without an IL stint) and he’s slid down the defensive spectrum to more of a first base only prospect, though he still played 12 games at third base and even played eight games in the outfield (he made 14 errors in 2019, including three at third base). The lack of defensive utility puts a lot of pressure on the 6’4” slugger’s bat to provide value at the Major League level, increasing the risk profile somewhat.
Nevin boasts a good contact tool and strong plate discipline, but didn’t display much power in AA in 2019. In 540 plate appearances with Hartford against pitchers who were on average about 2.1 years older, Nevin’s .251/.345/.399 line with 41 extra-base hits (13 HR) doesn’t look great. However, thanks to relatively strong plate discipline numbers (12% BB, 16.7% K) and a more pitcher-friendly run environment, that blah-seeming line was worth 122 wRC+.
Nevin was at his best as the season wound down, hitting .291/.363/.609 with 8 of his 13 homers in August. He took advantage of his home park, posting an .867 OPS at home vs. a paltry .611 OPS on the road, while he was actually better against right-handed pitching (.792 OPS) than against southpaws (.620 OPS).
Here’s some video of Nevin from spring training 2019 courtesy of FanGraphs:
MLB Pipeline recently ranked Nevin 10th among all minor league first base prospects, one of three Colorado Rockies prospects to make the cut:
Nevin has used outstanding plate discipline and an ability to make consistent hard contact to hit for average at every stop before the 2019 season. He didn’t drive the ball as consistently last year, with fewer line drives, but he still showed glimpses of being able to use all fields and did tie his career high in home runs, with several hit the other way. He still drew a ton of walks and kept his strikeouts down, which should help him get back on track in the future.
While Nevin saw most of his time defensively at first base a year ago, where he should be a solid defender, he continued to get some time at his original position at third and also got reps in the outfield corners. He might break into the big leagues as a super-utility type, but he’s still plenty young enough to develop into a big league regular at first base.
FanGraphs ranked Nevin 15th in the system with a 40 FV grade:
The list of current first baseman with premium contact skills but middling game power is full of players hovering around replacement level. Overripe Albert Pujols and Daniel Murphy, last year’s Joey Votto. This seems to be Nevin’s fate. We’ve seen him hit oppo homers but it comes from quality, barreled contact rather than raw strength and power. He tracks pitches beautifully and can make quality contact with pitches all over the zone, but it’s very tough for a righty-hitting first baseman without big power to profile. Nevin’s reps at third base have dwindled, and he played a few games in left field last summer. He’s on the 40-man and looks like a corner bench bat.
Nevin fell out of the Baseball Prospectus top 20 altogether this time around, but here’s a write-up from Kazuto Yamazaki of BP on Nevin from August 2019:
The pre-season hype around the former 38th-overall pick made it sound like his ceiling was somewhat similar to his dad’s peak years, but after four-plus subpar months the shine has dulled, and in my two looks he looked more like the late-career version of his pops. Nevinito showed easy plus raw power to all fields and the ability to catch up to above-average velocity. It’s a stiff swing, though, and swung through nearly every off-speed pitch in the zone. He hit the majority of balls on the ground during pre-game BP as well. While he demonstrated a decent understanding of the zone, the approach looked to be on the passive end. Taking into account that the right/right first baseman is merely a passable defender for the position, he may need to start practicing magnificent bat flips for his eventual all-star career in the KBO.
Taken together, the scouting reports paint a picture of a bat-first profile, combining an advanced approach with good barrel control. As was mentioned above, it’s unlikely that Nevin plays anywhere but first base regularly should he make it to MLB. He is now on the 40-man roster, which makes it more likely that will happen, but there are still a cluster of players between him and a first base role with the Rockies in 2020 (even with 26-man rosters). He’ll need to fight past those players (not just starters like Daniel Murphy and Ryan McMahon but also Josh Fuentes, Brian Mundell, and even Colton Welker), which will likely involve fighting for regular reps in AAA within a crowded corner infield position.
Nevin really needs to differentiate himself from those candidates to get the opportunity to mash at the big league level. I believe in the bat’s potential and think he can fake it at third base enough in a pinch. However, the lack of defensive utility (my skepticism of first base prospects is well-documented at this point) and the logjam ahead leave Nevin as low as 18th in the system with a FV 40 grade on my personal ballot as a potential corner platoon bat.