Tyler Nevin is not putting any added pressure on himself to hit a bunch of home runs in his first season at Triple-A Norfolk.
Nonetheless, he knows that’s the quickest path to the majors.
And Nevin has homered a team-leading four times in his first 11 games — tied for third-most in Triple-A East.
“I provide solid defense, but my main influence has been my bat and that’s how it’s been for my whole life,” Nevin said. “I haven’t consciously made more of an effort to hit home runs. When I barrel the ball consistently as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had more home runs. I felt really close all year.
“A lot of my strikeouts, I fouled off a pitch I should have hit. I’m not in any sort of mindset that way right now. It’s more about hitting the barrel consistently and letting things happen after that.”
Nevin was acquired by the Orioles along with infielder Terrin Vavra and outfielder Mishael Deson from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Mychal Givens on August 30, 2020.
In his last competitive season in 2019, Nevin appeared in a career-high 130 games with Double-A Hartford and was named the Eastern League Player of the Month for August after leading all Eastern League players in home runs (8), RBIs (24), slugging percentage (.609), OPS (.972), extra-base hits (19), and total bases (67).
In six minor-league seasons, Nevin has slashed .286/.362/.441 with 36 home runs and 93 RBIs in 366 games (1,362 at-bats).
Nevin said the Orioles have been helpful with the analytics and putting players in a position to succeed in Norfolk.
“It’s not much different as far as playing the actual game,” Nevin said. “I feel like I have more tools as far as scouting reports over here. There’s a lot more analytic approach and just broader information. That might be a Triple-A, Double-A thing. I like the tools that are provided for me over here a lot. It’s nice to develop a game plan going forward.”
Nevin is savoring his time with his new teammates in Norfolk. Several players, such as catcher Austin Wynns and infielder Seth Mejias-Brean, have major league experience. He’s also close to third baseman Rylan Bannon, who has yet to play in the majors but was added to the 40-man roster last fall. Those players have been helpful in providing advice and insight on what it takes to make the next step.
“I think it’s a great mix of guys who have spent some years in Triple-A, maybe with different organizations,” Nevin said. “I’ve talked to a bunch of older guys, Wynns, Seth, guys that have played in the big leagues, picking their brains and watching them play a more cerebral game with more advanced approaches and stuff that is helpful at the big-league level. I’ve learned a lot in a short time from those older guys.
“It’s also fun watching a guy like Rylan — he has a little bit of experience at Triple-A, too, but we’re on the younger side and it’s a great mix of guys, and I’m excited for this year. We have a lot of fun together and a lot of talent.”
Nevin is also enjoying the experience of playing in competitive games. Until this year, he had spent his brief time in the Orioles’ organization at the alternate training site in Bowie. The return of fans to the stadiums has also been energizing — on the road and at Harbor Park.
“Getting out of the hotel and having some people want to see you win is going to be a fun thing we missed for the past 600 or so days,” Nevin said. “I didn’t participate in an affiliated game last year, just the alternate site so it’s going to be a sight for sore eyes.”
Nevin, who is the son of longtime major leaguer and current New York Yankees coach Phil Nevin, and his teammates at Norfolk did have to make some other adjustments this season. The Triple-A teams compete with opponents in six-game series in order to cut down on travel, as opposed to the traditional three- or four-game series.
That means the pitchers and opposing hitter develop more of familiarity with one another during the extended trips. However, Nevin is just appreciative of playing competitive baseball again.
“It’s weird playing against the same team for six straight days,” Nevin said. “It’s different for sure. You might see a relief pitcher three times in one series. You see the same starter the first day as you see the last if they’re on a five-man rotation.
“It’s a new challenge. You’re going to have a team adapt to you quicker and know you better. So, it’s on you to adjust quicker. It’s kind of interesting how it plays out to make those adjustments on the fly. It’s still baseball so it’s not that crazy, but it’s definitely different.”