During the 2013 season, righty reliever Mike Nesseth proved himself to be a mover within the Phillies’ developmental ranks. After a rough start to his season with Class A Advanced Clearwater, Nesseth was promoted to Double-A Reading where he was dominant and earned himself another promotion before season’s end. With the progress he’s shown,
the Minnesota native is a prospect to know in the Phils system as the new season approaches.
Nesseth was the Phillies’ 17th round selection in 2010 while already recovering from Tommy John surgery. Undergoing the procedure approximately six weeks before the amateur draft, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate’s spot fell quite a bit from where he would have been taken if he was healthy.
It was late June 2011 before Nesseth made his official pro debut. As a member of the Class A short-season Williamsport Crosscutters, the youngster sported a 3-6 record with a 3.21 ERA in 14 starts. He also held righty batters to a .191 batting average.
The following year, after a difficult stretch to open the season, Nesseth was moved to the bullpen, where he has stayed and feels most comfortable.
In 18 games (four starts) with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws in 2012, Nesseth posted a 5-1 record along with three saves, a 3.06 ERA and a .192 batting average against. In late June, he was promoted to Class A Advanced Clearwater, where he sported a 2-2 record with eight saves, a 2.76 ERA and a .238 batting average against in 21 appearances.
Last year, Nesseth kicked off the season back with Clearwater, where he struggled at times, but a need at the Double-A level resulted in a promotion that couldn’t have gone much better. With Reading, Nesseth notched a 1-4 record with nine saves and a 1.64 ERA in 35 games out of the ‘pen.
Much like a September call up to the big leagues to end the season for certain minor leaguers, Nesseth got a taste of the Triple-A International League before the 2013 regular season was through. With the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Nesseth allowed just a lone unearned run in seven innings of work late in the season, as the Phillies wanted a glimpse of what he was capable of at that level.
Following his remarkable 2013 campaign, the Phillies assigned Nesseth to Peoria of the highly competitive Arizona Fall League. His time there wasn’t successful, as his 0-2 record, 9.20 ERA and .344 batting average against in nine games were alarming. Nesseth’s trouble as a member of the Peoria staff was a result of getting behind batters in the count.
In an October interview with me, while he was playing in the AFL, Nesseth described the opposition he was facing in that league as an unbelievable level of competition. It’s possible that fatigue was a factor for Nesseth, who pitched a month and a half longer in 2013 than he had ever done before.
Nesseth, who tends to be a slow starter during the regular season (5.71 ERA in April 2013 with Clearwater, 6.50 ERA in April 2012 with Lakewood), could possibly benefit from the additional action last year, as it may not take as long to knock off any proverbial rust this year. In his two full minor league seasons, Nesseth’s ERA after April is tremendously improved (1.41 ERA from May 1st till the end of the season in 2013, 1.85 ERA from May 1st till the end of the season in 2012).
After signing with the Phillies, Nesseth’s arm angle was changed to a more over-the-top delivery, by coaches, as the organization was focusing on his recovery from surgery and long term health. Over time, though, the 25-year-old found his more natural, lower arm slot and has seen a nice spike in velocity that wasn’t there when he pitched at the Class A level.
The six-foot-five 210-pounder sports a pitch repertoire that includes a fastball, which regularly reaches the 94-95 MPH range, a strong slider and an very good change up.
Averaging a 4.97 K/9 mark in the minors, Nesseth is bit more of a contact pitcher than other guys that might be suitable for late-inning relief. Additionally, his control was much improved last year as his 2.63 BB/9 ratio was far more appealing than the 4.24 BB/9 ratio from the prior year.
Expect Nesseth to begin the 2014 season with Lehigh Valley, where he’ll take on back-end-of-the-bullpen responsibilities as either a set up man or possibly the team’s closer. If Nesseth can prove himself to be a consistent contributor for the IronPigs, it’s quite possible fans could see him in a Phillies uniform this year, as inevitable needs arise throughout the season.