#25: Eric Niesen Scouting Report
Niesen will have his opportunities in 2011
Niesen will have his opportunities in 2011
Posted Jan 8, 2011

Eric Niesen's 2010 season started on a high note, but then a fluke injury sidelined him early in the year and slowed down a promising season. Upon his return from injury, the left-hander battled prolonged command issues. However, they are not enough to deny Niesen a shot at New York. Check out his scouting report to find out why.

Vital Statistics
Name: Eric Niesen
DOB: September 4, 1985
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 185
Throws: Left
Bats: Left
Status: 3rd Round (2007) – Wake Forest

An untimely midseason injury can be one of the most cruel twists of fate in a baseball season. Unfortunately for left-hander Eric Niesen, he was a victim to one of those disruptive forces and his 2010 season was never the same.

Niesen had a fine April. He pitched to a sub-3.00 ERA and an opponent’s batting average under .200, but then on April 23rd he was struck in the head by catcher Mike Nickeas’ throw down to second and his season was drastically altered. The southpaw returned after two months on disabled list and pitched well in his first few starts out of the gate, but soon thereafter, Niesen simply lost the hot hand that carried him through the season’s first month.

By mid-July, Niesen’s command slip and his productivity as a starter began to tail off fairly dramatically. His walk total began to climb quickly, his innings came down and ultimately it was decided he would go to the bullpen to try and correct his flaws. The results, however, were not much better. He battle d with the command of his fastball and slider and simply could not find the plate.

His command has never been a strong suit as he walked approximately four batters per nine innings his first three seasons. But that rate nearly doubled in the second half of 2010, leading Niesen to walk 60 batters in just 77 innings this season. In all, Niesen’s body of work featured a 4-6 record, a 5.14 ERA, 59 strikeouts and a .270 opponent’s average in 77 innings – 20 of which were starts.

The organization sent Niesen to the Arizona Fall League where he not only got a chance at some more innings, but the challenge of facing some of the game’s best prospects. His stat line does not speak to success (7 ER, 11 R, 11.2 IP), but seven of his 11 appearances were scoreless outings of at least one inning.

That figure is why Niesen still has a shot to contribute in New York with this system. When going right, Niesen - despite his notable command issues in 2010 - has the 1-2 punch with his top two pitches to be an asset. His fastball velocity, slider, the fact that his pitches all have moment and his left arm at least leaves the door open.

The aforementioned rebound that coaches came to expect of Niesen never materialized and his future as a starter in New York has all but passed. Yet, while his selection as a third round pick in the 2007 draft seems like a reach in hindsight, if Niesen can get to New York and contribute will it matter where he went in the draft? No.

Rather, there simply comes a time when expectations of a pitcher change. Though one might break into professional baseball in the rotation, the cold truth is many starters end up in the bullpen. Though career altering for some, the decision to move Niesen from the starting rotation to the bullpen may ultimately prove the best move for his career even with his struggles last season.





























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Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup

Fastball: Niesen has plenty on his fastball for a left-hander. His fastball sat 90-94 MPH during multiple observations of Niesen last season. His command was off later in the season. He was missing down and on the corners and higher velocities meant lesser movement which is crucial to his success with the fastball. At his most effective, Niesen pitches around 92 MPH, while generating the two-seam tail and sink that hitters’ have a tougher time lifting. Whether at higher speeds or he doesn’t finish properly, Niesen’s fastball flattens out and often centers the plate.

Other Pitches: Like his fastball, when Niesen does not finish properly with his slider, it lacks the late bite that at times makes it a legitimate finishing pitch. Niesen has a deliberate whipping motion in his delivery and as a result tends to hold onto the slider too long which flattens it out and often makes him miss wide to the outside. With the proper release point, however, his mid to high-70s slider has a snapping late break that makes can be very difficult for left-handed hitters to center and cuts it hard on righties. Niesen only flashes his 79-82 MPH changeup. In previous seasons it showed decent fade and drop. In 2010, it often came out looking like a batting practice fastball.

Pitching: Niesen’s success is absolutely predicated on command. Though he can pitch to above average fastball velocity, the left-hander must keep his repertoire down in the zone. He is at his best when everything as movement and his creating the late bite on his fastball and slider that can avoid hard contact. He is not a creative pitcher. He likes to establish the early count with his fastball before trying to generate misses with his slider. He will return to his fastball when behind in the count or in three-ball counts.

Projection: If Niesen, a former collegiate closer, is to get to New York it will be as a reliever. As stated, when going right, his fastball and slider have enough potential to make him a suitable left-handed specialist with enough bite to fill a Pedro Feliciano-like role. However, 60 walks in 59 innings in 2010 are indicative of pitcher who will have no such shot if he cannot regain his control. The formula is simple for Niesen. If he can consistently throw strikes for long enough, a spot can probably open up for him somewhere in the Mets bullpen or somewhere else.

ETA: 2012. There is still a reasonable shot that a strong year from Niesen gets him to New York in late 2011. He should open the year in the Buffalo bullpen and a hot start could get him serious looks, but his 2010 performance did not offer enough confidence that such a promotion will materialize before the following season.

Related Stories
Niesen Showing Little Effect From Injury
 -by InsidePitchMagazine.com  Jun 25, 2010
Pitching Coordinator Rick Waits Talks B-Mets
 -by InsidePitchMagazine.com  May 27, 2010
Niesen Off and Running In the New Season
 -by InsidePitchMagazine.com  Apr 10, 2010

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