Chris Nelson Is Finally Delivering for the Colorado Rockies

Paul Francis SullivanChief Writer ISeptember 3, 2012

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 02:  Chris Nelson #10 of the Colorado Rockies celebrates his three run home run against the San Diego Padres in the seventh inning at Coors Field on September 2, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Padres 11-10.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

A first-round pick for the Rockies is blossoming in the major leagues and Colorado is thinking "better late than never for Chris Nelson."

In 2004, the Rockies had the ninth pick in the draft. The San Diego Padres picked Matt Bush first overall and the Tigers decided to take someone named Justin Verlander at number two.

Baseball America ranked Chris Nelson ahead of Bush and, according to, was considered to be the second best position player available in the draft, after Stephen Drew. He hit .582 with 25 schools at Redan High School in Georgia and looked the part of a big league infielder.

The Rockies took a chance with him as most of the other teams were drafting pitchers.

Jered Weaver, Phil Hughes, Gio Gonzalez and Yovani Gallardo were still available as pitchers. Billy Butler, Dustin Pedroia, Hunter Pence, Ian Desmond and Ben Zobrist were available as hitters.

Nelson played the next six seasons in the minors, peaking in 2007 at age 21 with the Modesto Nuts. He batted .289 with an OPS of .861, 19 homers, 99 RBI and 27 steals.

But success did not translate into big league production. He was recalled in 2010 and stole home in a game but only saw action in 17 games. He was recalled again in 2011 and got off to a fast start before tailing off.

He started 2012 as the every day third baseman but slumped badly and was batting .219 with a .288 slugging when he was sent back to the minor leagues in mid-May.

Something clicked when Nelson was sent back to Colorado Springs. He returned to the parent club and has been the regular third baseman since mid-August. He had two three hit games over a period of three days in late August.

He batted .328 in August with an OPS of .859 and so far is carrying it into September.

Yesterday, his go ahead seventh inning three run home run off of Brad Brach was the difference in the Rockies 11-10 victory over the Padres.

With Troy Tulowitzki's return and the development of Josh Rutledge and DJ LeMahieu, Chris Nelson is fitting right in as the Rockies are creating a very deep and talented infield for 2013.

Perhaps the Rockies would have wanted a return on their investment a little quicker. But Nelson is delivering now, and that's more than some teams can say about their first round pick. Ask the Padres if they would rather have Nelson over Matt Bush.