With the Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells deals working out for the organization, you have to think their scouting department has done a wonderful job finding players on the scrap heap. At this point, any player that interests the Yankees also interests me, and last season Chris Nelson interested the Yankees. Over the weekend, the Rockies DFA'd the infielder, and his defense and offense still look like an interesting fit to the current Yankee lineup.
With the 9th pick in the 2004 draft, the Colorado Rockies selected the 18 year old short stop Chris Nelson. On Saturday night, they released the 27 year old third baseman Chris Nelson, after nearly a decade of false hope. At one point time, Nelson was considered one of the best infield prospects in baseball, flashing both power and leather in the early part of his career. In 2005, he was ranked the 26th best prospect in baseball after batting .347/.432/.510 in Rookie Level. Over the next few years, the young infielder struggled, and it wasn't until 2007, his age 21 season, that he started to hit in the upper levels. From 2007 to 2010, Nelson moved from High-A to Triple-A, and posted a respective OPS of .861, .657, .832, and .868 along the way. In 2010, at the age of 24, Nelson got the call to the majors. The rest of his career would be a roller coaster of high's and low's in the majors and minors.
Despite playing in what's widely considered the most hitter friendly ballpark, Nelson has hit just .279/.322/.416 over 664 career plate appearances. While this is far from awful, the ballpark factor drops his wRC+ to just 86, which is well below a league average hitter. In his four seasons, he owns virtually no platoon splits, with an 84 wRC+ against lefties, and an 87 wRC+ against righties. (Though just 2 of his 13 home runs have come off southpaws) As for his home and away splits, his numbers at home have been far better, where he's hit .316/.363/.460, compared to .238/.275/.366 on the road.
A team must be extremely weary when acquiring any hitter from the Rockies, but Nelson has a few numbers that indicate he might not continue his awful hitting on the road. The effects of Coors Field can be drastic, but they're usually more suited towards power. My own park factors, using this five year regressed method, found that the home run rate for right-handers was 113% in 2010 (FanGraphs also has it at 113%), 115% in 2011 (113%), and 113% in 2012, for singles it was 108% (105%), 106% (105%), and 107%, for doubles it was 108% (113%), 111% (113%), and 112%. What's odd is that Nelson's BABIP at home was .369, or .62 points higher that his .307 BABIP on the road. Though there's an obvious boost in singles and doubles hit in Coors, it should not have such a startling effect.
From home/away splits, to his odd platoon splits, to his BABIPS, to batted ball rates, Nelson's stats are rather wacky, and considering that we're working with 664 plate appearances, he seems to have fallen victim to small sample size.
I won't say that Nelson will ever live up to his 9th overall draft selection, but the Yankees should have a clear interest in him. He's a right-handed batter that can play short stop, second base, and third base. Especially if Kevin Youkilis goes down with his back injury, the Yankees will desperately need another right handed infielder. As awful as Nelson's been, his minor league numbers indicate that he could be an upgrade over Jayson Nix and Ben Francisco. A change of scenery could do Nelson well, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Yankees acquire him from the Rockies over the next 10 days.