Nick Nelson was acquired from the New York Yankees back in 2021 in a four-player swap that also saw the Phillies net catcher Donny Sands in exchange for minor leaguers T.J. Rumfield and Joel Valdez. Nelson was expected to serve as valuable pitching depth for the organization after two underwhelming seasons with the Bronx Bombers, where he averaged an ERA above 6.40 and a WHIP above 1.75.
Despite sticking with the big league team for the entire 2022 season, Nelson failed to thrive, pitching to a 4.85 ERA and 1.49 WHIP while giving up 37 earned runs, with 36 walks, 69 strikeouts and an NL-leading 13 wild pitches in 68 2/3 innings in 47 appearances (including two starts). Even though he made the Phillies’ postseason roster, he only saw action in one game in the World Series against the Houston Astros, in which he registered two walks in one inning of work.
With better bullpen arms at the Phillies’ disposal for 2023, Nelson was pushed out of a spot on the major league roster and spent the entire season in their minors, where he was deployed mainly as a starter. Nelson ended up having a respectable year with a 3.83 ERA, but still displayed some wildness at times with a 1.39 WHIP.
However, Nelson had always found some success in the past pitching in the minor leagues, even during his time with the Yankees. The more worrisome aspect of his game is that he hasn’t been able to translate that success to the major league level, often struggling against big league hitters.
With up-and-coming arms in top prospects Griff McGarry and Mick Abel, along with recent offseason additions in Mercado and Allard, the Phillies appear stacked with potential starting pitching depth entering 2024, making the necessity of having Nelson as insurance depth more or less negligible.
Until Nelson can prove once and for all that he can be a serviceable MLB-caliber pitcher, his spot on the 40-man roster should be saved for someone else.