The San Diego Padres have a total of 24 non-roster invitees headed to Peoria to compete for a spot on the big-league roster in 2018. One of the pitchers headed to his first ever big-league camp is 6′ 4″, 220 lb right-handed pitcher Jacob Nix, who is currently the Padres’ 14th ranked prospect in their flourishing system.
Jacob Nix was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 5th round of the 2014 MLB Draft, while he was attending Los Alamitos High School in California . He never signed with the team due to the fact the Astros failed to sign current Indians’ prospect Brady Aiken. The Brady Aiken disaster caused Houston to lose a significant amount of bonus pool money they intended to spend on Nix. The San Diego Padres had no fiascos signing Nix and securing him with the 86th pick in the third round of the 2015 MLB Draft for a total of $900,000.
At the time he was signed, the Padres viewed Nix as another high-quality pitcher retaining lots of upside with the ideal size and combination of pitches to become a middle of the rotation starter in MLB. The athletic-framed right-hander presents a strong pitcher’s build with lean strength at 220 lbs.
Nix has a simple way of throwing the baseball, yet very effective and easy to replicate, making it unlikely to cause any future injuries. His mechanics combined with his build and feel for his pitches make him one of the more intriguing pitchers in the Padres’ organization. Most of his strikeouts come from the velocity on his four-seam fastball that tops out at around 96-97 mph. His other top pitches are his lethal curveball with solid movement that helps to generate lots of ground balls as hitters get out on their front foot, and a changeup with good sink and fade action. Confidence, hard work, and steady improvements will help Jacob Nix step closer to his next destination in San Diego.
Just 19 years old when he was drafted, Nix had lots of potential to his game, but was far from unveiling anything that was major league ready. The major concerns were his control and consistency during a full season’s workload. The hurler pitched for Fort Wayne in 2016, going 3-7 with a 3.93 ERA across 105 1/3 innings in just 25 games. His fastball and curveball combination helped him strike out 7.69 batters per nine innings with a ratio of 1.71 walks per 9 innings and a 1.28 WHIP. His impressive stuff earned him the call-up to Lake Elsinore at the start of the 2017 season.
Beginning in 2017, Jacob Nix started making adjustments to help with locating his pitches and improving the location and velocity of his off-speed offerings. His time with Lake Elsinore was very bright as he earned himself a call-up to the San Antonio Missions where he spent the majority of the season. Nix went 5-5 with a 4.32 ERA, 73 strikeouts, and a 1.37 WHIP across 94 1/3 innings splitting the season between Lake Elsinore and the San Antonio Missions.
The Padres’ coaches embrace pushing players beyond their comfort zone if they feel they are capable of retaining a high ceiling. After pitching in just six games with the Missions, Nix was called up to make his Triple-A Debut in El Paso, on September 16th, 2017 when he pitched 6 2/3 innings while only giving up one run in a PCL playoff game.
The 22-year-old’s stellar Triple-A debut came just before he participated in last year’s Padres On Deck game at Petco Park on September 30th, 2017, which gave fans free admission and a chance to see some of the team’s future stars.
The Padres’ prospects went up against the Texas Rangers’ best prospects in this exciting matchup, and Nix started the game for the San Diego prospects, pitching three strong innings, only giving up one run. He certainly made the most of his opportunity to take the mound on this big stage at Petco Park, and hopefully learned something for the future.
The On Deck game will help motivate Nix to get back on the mound at Petco Park. I can see him molding into a strong 3/4 starter in the San Diego rotation, and in the worst-case scenario, he will probably become a reliable middle inning reliever with three plus pitches and the ability to pitch lengthy stints out of the pen.
This young arm has a chance to impress in big league camp this spring and make a name for himself heading into the 2018 season. The curveball pitcher will likely start 2018 with the San Antonio Missions, but anything remains a possibility for this guy considering how much Padres’ ownership takes chances on highly-rated players at the next level. If he really impresses during spring training, he might end up starting in El Paso in order to get a better feel for more advanced hitters. For now, Nix must learn to perfect his off-speed pitches, limit his walks, and improve his consistency. Patience with the right-hander is the smart move, as he is still relatively young and needs more time to reach his fullest potential as a pitcher in the majors.