The Padres’ Jacob Nix Certainly Knows Adversity

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Credit: AP Photo

Adversity has made Jacob Nix a strong person and helped him deal within the failures of the game of baseball. With a great attitude and plenty of life lessons learned, Nix could be a very useful pitcher for the San Diego Padres now and in the future.

When Jacob Nix was drafted out of high school by the Houston Astros in the fifth round of the 2014 MLB Draft, he thought a long journey had arrived for him of achieving a life long goal of playing baseball professionally.

Little did he know he would be embroiled in a mish-mash of tepid negotiations and failed physicals, all of which had nothing to do with him personally as a ballplayer.

While being drafted by the Astros in the fifth round, Nix was expected to be signed for around $1.5 million. Now to do that, Houston thought they were able to secure a pre-draft negotiated deal with #1 overall pick and San Diego product Brady Aiken. That agreement would allow them to save money and be able to sign Nix with within the allocated draft pool money allowed by MLB.

However, after a failed physical that showed a frayed UCL that would eventually lead Aiken to Tommy John surgery the following season, the Astros backed out of their deal with Aiken which unfortunately led them to back out of the $ 1.5 million dollar bonus agreed upon with Nix as well as a fellow draftee Mac Marshall.

Now adversity has a funny way of making it feel like a roller coaster sometimes and Nix was not immune to this ride. Like most highly rated high school baseball players, he had a college program lined up if he wasn’t drafted in a suitable spot or favorable bonus terms offered. Being a SoCal kid, a  logical spot was UCLA, which had just recently produced two first rounders in fireballers Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer.  The only thing that would get in the way of him attending a storied program like UCLA would be if he was drafted or offered 1st round money. The NCAA decided that even though the agreed upon deal with the Astros became nullified due to other dealings (Aiken), having signed that proposed deal disqualified him from the amateur ranks and made him ineligible to play college baseball.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, he found himself landing at prestigious post-graduate school IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Nix would regroup and refocus on his plan to play major league baseball while sharpening his skills against the high-level talent of his own age in preparation of being eligible for the 2015 MLB Draft.

Credit: AP Photo

That’s where the story leads to Nix being drafted in the third round of the 2015 draft by the San Diego Padres, who agreed to terms at a $900,000 signing bonus. Not the same amount the failed deal with the Astros was, but nothing to sneeze at. During this inaugural draft by (then) new GM A.J. Preller, the superlatives mentioned about Nix by Preller and other front office members included potential, workhorse, and driven. The scouting report coming out of IMG included a fastball that touches 95 mph, a developing curve with much promise and a changeup that would flash plus but lack consistency like many young pitchers. All of this coming from a sturdy workhorse frame at 6’4″ 220 lb. From that point on, Nix has steadily climbed the minor league ladder proving himself level by level.

Jacob Nix showed flashes of brilliance in his first taste of The Show, including a dazzling 8 1/3 inning performance against the Mariners where he only allowed one run on eight hits. He is still looking to improve though, as reported by Padres beat writer AJ Cassavell, he is working on increasing the velocity and spin rate on his curveball to give him a go-to out pitch that he clearly lacked at the major league level last year.

Health will also be key, as he underwent sports hernia surgery on Nov 8 of this past year. This could explain a drop in velocity from his 95 mph average fastball in the minors to a 93 mph average he demonstrated in his time with the Padres as well as what he claimed to be “out of whack mechanics”.  After starting off each of the last two campaigns dinged up, this is the first season in a while that he hopes to enter camp in full health and arsenal. He will head into camp this year with a dogged determination to make one of the five available spots in the Padres rotation.

Having his first taste of the major leagues during the 2018 season has given him a glimpse at his dream. A reason for all those long bus rides from town to town sometimes playing in front of crowds in the hundreds. Now, it’s on him to seize the opportunity presented to him in a wild pitching contest.

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