The fourth notable starting pitcher prospect promoted from A+ Lake Elsinore this year is RHP Jacob “Juicy Jake” Nix. The 2015 3rd round RHP follows Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, and Joey Lucchesi to the Missions after a rotation spot was emptied due to RHP Chris Huffman’s promotion to AAA El Paso.
Nix started the year on the DL with Lake Elsinore with a groin injury, and only got activated by the end of May. Due to this, he was behind fellow Lake Elsinore SP prospects in being promoted, yet he is not any less of a prospect because of it. The Padres 9th ranked prospect, Nix does not have the upside of a Quantrill or Gore, but has a realistic ceiling of a dependable #3 starter. Make no mistake – a #3 starter is extremely valuable, even if they aren’t an “ace”, and Nix might be as vital as any player for the future of the Padres.
Nix has had struggles in Advanced-A ball this year – a 4.32 ERA and 6.9 K/9 indicate that his stuff is not finished developing, but it does not mean that he is not a good prospect. His 5-to-1 K:BB ratio shows that he has good command, especially of the fastball, and the stuff to make hitters take the walk of shame back to the dugout. At the A+ level, prospects do not need to be dominating like Lucchesi or Lauer to deserve recognition or praise – in fact, many talent evaluators prefer Nix to both of those LHPs.
Austin Allen, catcher for the Lake Elsinore Storm, had this to say about Nix:
I had Nix last year in Fort Wayne, and I’ve always said he has the easiest mid-90s I’ve ever seen. It’s just so smooth, and he’s got a wipeout curveball that he can throw at any time, and he knows what it’s going to do and he knows where to put it. Really, he’s just a competitor, and he’s going to fill up the zone, and he’s going to say here’s my stuff, I dare you to hit it. And that’s awesome coming from a guy like him, where it looks easy and natural.
At the Double-A level, a step forward in stuff is obviously desired, but so is a step forward in production. AA San Antonio is close enough to the majors where prospects need to have more than just raw tools and the rare flashy pitch – this is where it should all start to come together. On the other hand, there’s no rush for Nix to start eviscerating AA hitters. At 21 years old, he will be one of the younger players in the Texas League, and has plenty of time to advance and develop at his own pace. After all, the Padres hardly need a competitive rotation in 2018.
Lake Elsinore now has a free rotation spot, though. Nothing has been confirmed (or rumored) yet, but one might expect RHP Michel Baez to take Nix’s place. Baez is dominating A-level hitting, and at 21 years old, is certainly old enough to face better hitting. In fact, RH reliever Jose Galindo, 13th round pick in 2016, has been promoted to Fort Wayne in light of his own dominance with short-season A- Tri-City, which would require a corresponding move to open up a roster spot for him. Again, nothing has been confirmed, but keep your eyes on the Padres Prospectus Twitter account to keep up to date on all Padres prospect news and promotions.