Fernando Nieve Could Be A Sleeper

An article by posted on January 30, 2010

Adam Rubin of the Daily News, recently reported that the Mets will not have Bobby Parnell audition for a spot in the starting rotation, but that Fernando Nieve will figure into the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation behind Santana, Maine, Perez and Pelfrey.

Jerry Manuel is very high on Nieve as is GM Omar Minaya, both of them have mentioned him as a pitcher we shouldn’t count out this season.

We have profiled Fernando Nieve extensively here on MMO, and I clearly envision Nieve as a major sleeper for the 2010 season.

Here’s a scouting report on Nieve in 2006 as one of their top pitching prospects:

Fernando Nieve RHP, HOU

Strengths: 89-94 MPH four-seam fastball, 85-87 MPH cut-fastball, and 81-83 MPH slider. Command, arm action, aggressiveness.

Weaknesses: Deception of 81-84 MPH straight-change, setting-up pitches, effort to ¾ delivery

Comments: Strong/stocky hurler lights-up strike zone with above average fastball and nails RH batters with cutter and slider. Improved command within strike zone and proved durable, despite effort to delivery. Gets into mindset where he wants to overpower hitters and will need to change speeds to combat LH batters.

Also check out what we posted on Nieve back on June 14th, 2009.

The Astros brought him up in 2006 – where he made 11 starts for them – pitching pretty well for a rookie – with a 4.20 ERA and striking out hitters at a rate of 6.5 per 9 innings. However in August of 2006 he experienced some elbow issues that eventually shut him down for the season – and lingered into 2007.  Apparently it was misdiagnosed by Astro trainers as elbow tendinitis (sound familiar Met fans?) – and it was revealed later in 2007 that he had a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow – and would require Tommy John surgery.

He attempted to come back early from TJ surgery in 2008 and the Astros obliged moving him to the bullpen in order to preserve his arm.  Unfortunately he was spotty at best – and spent most of 2008 moving between AAA and the MLB club (which caused the Astros to run out of options on him).

The Astros waived Nieve early this year as he wasn’t making the big club – and the Mets swooped in and claimed him.  (good scouting by someone in our organization)  Although they knew Nieve wasn’t going to make the Opening Day roster the Mets optioned him right before Opening Day – thus allowing him to clear waivers and go to AAA Buffalo (another smart move).

He pitched reasonably well in the Mets minors in 2009 – re-establishing his dominance – averaging a strikeout per inning along with reasonable control 3.0 BB/9 – and a 3.75 ERA.

Finally – John Maine’s injury opened up a spot in the Mets rotation and with the organization either having given up on Jon Niese or thinking he needs additional “seasoning” – Nieve got the call.

The rest you know.  A great outing in a pressure situation against one of the better teams in baseball.  And certainly the opportunity to carve out a place in the Mets rotation if he can follow it up.

In eight appearances for the Mets in 2009, the 27 year old Nieve went 3-3 with a superb 2.95 ERA, while striking out 23 in 36 2/3 innings. He was well on his way to establishing himself before sustaining his season ending hamstring injury.

In one dominating performance against the Yankees last season, Carlos Beltran was impressed with his new changeup. It’s worth noting because one thing most scouts agreed on regarding Nieve, was that he had the plus fastball and effective curve, but lacked the changeup to pull it all together. 

“His change-up was extremely effective as well as a pitch that he’s recently added to his arsenal. I like the way he pitches, I like his velocity,” Carlos Beltran said. “He pitched a great game, he challenged players.”

Beltran was not just impressed with his velocity. Nieve consistently threw 93 mph, and peaked at 96 mph, according to Beltran, and had an effective changeup.

“He never had that pitch before in his career, so he looked pretty good out there now,” Beltran said.

Nieve went 45-34 with a 3.63 ERA in an eight year minor league career. He is now fully recovered from TJ surgery and looks like a new and improved version who has transformed himself from a hard thrower to a smart pitcher who can deceive hitters.

While playing in the Venezuelan Winter League, Nieve went 1-2 with a 2.42 ERA in five starts, walking just three batters while striking out 26 in 26 innings. He drew raves from his manager, coaches and teammates.

Although I’m just as disappointed as most Mets fans that we didn’t acquire a starter to bolster the rotation for the 2010 season, Fernando Nieve can certainly turn those frowns upside down if he can deliver some solid performances to start the season and fulfill his expectations. He has electric stuff, and is loaded with so much promise and upside, maybe this is the year he finally delivers his breakthrough performance. LGM

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I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.

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