Right-hander Hector Nelo was able to display command of his mid-90s fastball and showed some positives from his other offerings in a solid first campaign with the Single-A Potomac Nationals last season.
Nelo went 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA in 36 games in 2011, taking over the closer role when Patrick Lehman was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg. Nelo had 18 saves in 41 1/3 innings, striking out 35 and allowing just 11 total earned runs.
Nationals director of player development Doug Harris was impressed with the progress the Miami, Fla., product showed during the season and at the Venezuelan winter league, going 0-0 with a 4.15 ERA in eight games, surrendering four earned runs.
And now the 25-year old Nelo has really started to turn heads because he has been able to ramp up his fastball velocity to triple digits.
"He has got a huge arm," Harris said. "Arguably, he has the best arm in our system. He is up to 100 mph. For him, it is fastball command (we need to work on). It is development of a slider."
The Nationals need to refine Nelo's location on his high-octane pitch and get his two other pitches to be steadily consistent.
"When he came to us he had a curveball," Harris said. "We are now trying to go cutter to slider with him. That is going to be a big part of his ability to have success at higher levels: development of that second pitch and command of that fastball."
Harris said Nelo's Potomac performance helped solidify the franchise belief that the former St. Thomas University hurler can make that next step.
"He really had his best year statistically and commanding his stuff," Harris said. "We feel like he is ready for the next challenge at this point. Those kind of arms are just not hanging out there (available) all the time."
Judging from those comments from Harris, it is very likely Nelo will get a shot at starting the 2012 season at Double-A Harrisburg.