Looking at the career of Nick Neidert in a nutshell, one would be inclined to question how he made the near-impossible possible. The answer to that query lies in the faith and trust the now 22-year-old top prospect holds in a power much bigger and higher than anything baseball has to offer.
At the beginning of his baseball career, Neidert was a middle infielder at Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Georgia. Then, one day, in his third amateur season, his coach tasked him with manning the mound. It didn’t take long for the PRHS coaching staff to realize the natural gifts Neidert had been endowed with by his creator. And thus, the teenager began down the path destined for him.
“In high school, I was trying to get the feel for pitching. Just trying to get the grasp on how hitters think, what kind of sequences to use, just the basic stuff,” Neidert said. “God blessed me to make the huge velo jump [in my senior year] and he allowed me to have better stuff fairly quickly, getting me on a bunch of team’s radars.”
Upon the completion of his senior year, Neidert was reaching as high as 96 MPH with both fade and run, spotting his heater at will all over the strike zone. His 86-88 MPH slider and 75-77 MPH curveball, though sometimes blending into each other, both showed plus potential and he was already starting to throw a 86-88 MPH changeup. Lauded as the 29th best high school prospect in the 2015 draft, Neidert forwent a commitment with the University of South Carolina in favor of signing for the Mariners who selected him with their second round pick.
— MarinersPR (@MarinersPR) June 12, 2015
For the second time, Neidert’s life path took a sudden turn. But once again, the newly-turned adult didn’t question things; he just went with it, trusting in faith and prayer to guide him through the maturation process both as a pitcher and a person. In his first taste of pro ball, Neidert provided a good glimpse at his potential as he held down a 1.53 ERA via a 0.96 WHIP and 23/9 K/BB.
“When I went out to Arizona, it was definitely a big change for me. I was definitely a little nervous, but I knew that that was in God’s plan and what he wanted in my life so I just trusted in him,” Neidert said. “It was a good first season. It helped me grow as a person. You gotta mature really quickly when you go away for 3-4 months. It was a great experience.”
Neidert was spectacular in 2017, pitching to a career best 10-3, 2.76 ERA, 1.073 WHIP, 107/17 showing in the A+ California League, marks which made him one of the circuit’s best pitchers. His ERA was led the league as did his 78.8 LOB%, his 6.41 K/BB ratio ranked third and his 3.39 FIP ranked second only to teammate Pablo Lopez. On top an All-Star selection, Neidert won the California League’s Pitcher Of The Year Award, a title formerly won by the likes of Felix Hernandez, Ervin Santana and Brad Penny. By way of those accolades, Neidert rocketed up prospect rankings, placing as high as number two organizationally heading into 2018.
There was little time for Neidert to reflect on his first full-season campaign as, exactly four months after he threw his final pitch, the newly-turned 22-year-old was traded to the Marlins in the Dee Gordon trade.
“It came as a shock to me because a lot of people were saying I was an untouchable prospect for [Seattle], but in my mind, nobody’s untouchable. So when I got traded, I was kind of caught off guard, but I knew God had a plan for that and I knew there was a reason behind it.”
Two months after being dealt from the only system and baseball family he’d ever known, Neidert was back at spring training on a different coast with a team in a completely different situation; with a team in the early stages of a rebuild rather than one on the verge of the playoffs. As if that weren’t enough, at the start of the year, the righty was tasked with making the full-time jump to AA, quite possibly the hardest task in professional baseball. Despite changing coasts, joining a different organization for the first time in his career and joining the upper minors full-time against competition over three years his elder, Neidert didn’t miss a beat. In a career-high 26 starts, he lasted a career-high (and Southern League most) 152.2 IP and held down a 3.24 ERA via a 1.13 WHIP, marks which placed 4th and 6th circuit-wide among pitchers with at least 100 IP. His 154 Ks were second-most only to D-Backs top prospect Taylor Widener and his 20.1 K/BB ratio placed third.
According to Neidert, his ability to continue to develop positively despite joining a brand new club lay in the fact that with the recent regime change, everyone was acclimating to the Marlins’ reconstructed organization. In essence, everyone was the new kid in town.
“When I came to the Marlins, they had a whole new front office so it kind of helped me coming in because everyone else was learning a new front office, it wasn’t just me,” Neidert said. “The players and the guys, I connected with them very quick because we all have the same dream ahead of us, the same goal. So it wasn’t too bad trying to fit in.”
And, as always, despite whatever circumstance came his way, Neidert maintained his allegiance to his faith.
“Throughout all last year and throughout whatever has gone on, I’ve put my trust in God,” Neidert said. “My identity is in Him, as a child of God. So I haven’t really been too nervous or anxious on what has been going on around me and the places I’ve been because I’ve always felt He has a plan for me.”
Along the path created for him, Neidert has been the beneficiary of the expertise of many different mentors, including five pitching coaches in the past four seasons. According to Neidert, he picked up something useful from each of them.
“It’s hard pick just one,” Neidert chuckled when asked to name his most helpful mentor. “I want to say Rich Dorman because he was my very first pitching coach. He was there for me in the AZL in my very first season and taught me about how pro ball goes and how to become a pitcher who can succeed. I had Peter Woolworth after that. He taught me how to contain myself. Then this year we had Storm Davis and Dave LaRoche, both legends in the game of baseball. They taught me so much how to slow down the game and change timing, how to disrupt a hitters timing, how to change speeds and how to keep hitters off balance. Collectively, if we could combine all of them into one, that’d be incredible.”
Despite the jump in level in 2018, Neidert’s swing-and-miss potential followed him from A ball where his K rate was 26% in 104.1 IP to AA where it was 25.2% over 152.2 IP. According to Neidert, that persistence had less to do with an improvement in stuff and more to do with a better psychological understanding of his opposition.
“I’ve always been a pitch-to-contact kind of guy because I’d rather a guy ground out or pop out in two pitches because pitch count is big now; get your team back in the dugout quicker. I’ve really never tried to do much different. But just learning pitch sequencing more, learning what hitters are trying to do in every situation; that kind of stuff, just taking my knowledge and trying to apply it every single time to keep hitters messed up at the dish and to try to have more success.”
Although his stuff showed true two seasons ago, Neidert’s pitcher’s IQ has absolutely soared in that time, not only allowing him to better understand hitters but to further understand himself. Through this unique but very advantageous route, Neidert has grown into a near-MLB ready hurler in just a four year tenure in minor league ball. As we enter 2019, Neidert, the owner of a four-pitch arsenal including a changeup that he made huge strides with in 2018, catching it up to his low-mid 90s heat which he throws with both two and four seams, sits on the precipice of realizing his Major League dream.
As he has been for every other challenge that life has thrown his way, Neidert will undoubtedly be up for the jump to the Major League ranks, but for now, he isn’t concerned with when it occurs.
“I don’t look at the prospect rankings because everyone has an opportunity to make it to the big leagues. Once you’re there, you stay there. If not, you go down,” Neidert said. “I’m just working on really mixing up my sequencing, my pitches and trying to be as deceptive as I possible can be. Just to try to have the most success with the things I have. I am going to try to build off last year and try my best to work even harder and to put in even more just to get 1% better every single day.”
One of those days not too far in the future, Neidert will find himself pulling on an official “Our Colores” Marlins’ uniform. Not only is Nick a fan of the look, he’s a huge supporter of what it stands for.
“I love the new colors. It basically states that we are in a rebuild and this is a completely new organization than it has been in years past,” Neidert said. “I’ve been here since the start of the start of the new front office and I can tell you that in everything they’re doing, the Miami Marlins are going to be competing for World Series championships for years to come. The culture they’re creating in the clubhouse is absolutely incredible and the fact that one day I’ll be blessed enough to pitch in a big league ballpark, that’s equally incredible.”
As exceptional as the prospect is, Neidert isn’t concerned with the date and time of that occurrence. Rather, he is leaving that to date and living in the moment. Overall, Neidert doesn’t view himself as the driver in charge of his career, but rather as a passenger.
“I’m just along for the ride, man,” Neidert said. “Just allowing God to use me.”
Keep enjoying riding shotgun, Nick. We are thoroughly enjoying the view from the backseat.