Many baseball organizations like their pitchers the size of outside linebackers – 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, with an arm that can rifle a fastball through the nearest wall.
Then there’s the Modesto Nuts’ Nick Neidert. He looks more like, well, you and me.
“I’ve been doubted since I was a little kid,” the righthander said after a pregame workout last week. “They said I was too small or too skinny. I had a little adversity to overcome.”
Neidert, 20, always fueled his personal engine with slights, both real and perceived. Though he’s only 6-1 and 185 – an ordinary physique for the neighborhood he’s trying to reach – he compensates with tenacity and talent.
The Seattle Mariners, the Nuts’ new parent club, apparently don’t mind that Neidert can’t lift small autos onto the curb. He’s their No. 3-ranked minor-league prospect.
Neidert has made a smooth transition from the Low-A Clinton (Iowa) LumberKings last year to High-A Modesto this spring. He’s 4-0 with a 3.35 ERA going into Tuesday night’s scheduled start against Rancho Cucamonga at Thurman Field, but his overall command gives him consistently high marks. His 10 strikeouts two weeks ago against Lake Elsinore indicates that he’s on schedule.
4-0 Nick Neidert’s record
His ability to throw his low-to-mid-90 fastball, changeup and curve for strikes makes him worth the attention. Continued development of his slider will help.
“Last year, he was mainly fastball,” Nuts pitching coach Pete Woodworth said. “This year, he’s learning how to pitch.”
It’s Neidert’s competitive juices, however, that coaches and scouts especially like. He appears even younger than his tender age and his pleasant persona might deceive. Fact is, he’s a bona fide gamer in a business that reveres gamers.
He thinks he is (6-4),” Woodworth said. “When it’s 7:05 and it’s his day, he’s a true competitor.”
The seeds to those instincts were planted when he was a kid in Suwanee, Ga., about a 45-minute drive on Interstate 85 from Atlanta. He quickly adapted to the fact he wasn’t the biggest kid on the block.
He was raised on Atlanta Braves baseball, in fact, and admired gifted pitchers John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.
“Just watching them do their thing was incredible,” Neidert said. “It helps to look back and look what they did. They weren’t really power pitchers, but they sure did spot-up. That’s what I try to do.”
Neidert, the 60th overall pick of the 2015 draft, walked only 13 batters in 91 innings last year at Clinton. This season, it’s more of the same – 46 strikeouts and only eight walks in 40 2/3s innings.
“The ball carries a little better than it did in the Midwest League. Hitters have a little better plan at the plate,” he said. “It’s a hitters’ league, so if you dell well pitching, it says a lot.”
I’ve been doubted since I was a little kid. They said I was too small or too skinny. I had a little adversity to overcome.
Neidert will get no argument from Nuts manager Mitch Canham, who knows Neidert is one of the reasons why Modesto leads the Cal League’s North Division.
“Players like playing behind him. He’s very competitive,” Canham said. “He doesn’t care about size or statistics. He’s very selfless and is just a genuine person.”
If Neidert sweats the expectations that come with being a closely watched prospect, he doesn’t show it.
“I don’t take it as pressure,” he said. “I go about my business the same way.”