Three takeaways from the first week of Spring Training for the Arizona Diamondbacks

What are some takeaways we can get from the Arizona Diamondbacks' first week of Spring Training?

Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Kristian Robinson adjusts his cap during spring training workouts at
Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Kristian Robinson adjusts his cap during spring training workouts at / Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY
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Ryne Nelson is vying for a rotation spot with improved stuff

Ryne Nelson's rookie season was not great. In 144 innings, Nelson pitched to a 5.31 ERA, 5.07 FIP, and 1.42 WHIP. His 15.5% strikeout rate was the third lowest among any pitcher, with 140+ innings pitched last year. Nelson also struggled to limit home runs with a 1.50 HR/9 rate. Limiting hard and quality contact was a problem as he was below the tenth percentile of both exit velocity and barrel rate. The one silver lining is that he had a quality 7.4% walk rate.

Nelson entered Spring in competition for the 5th rotation spot behind Zac Gallen, Brandon Pfaadt, Merrill Kelly, and Eduardo Rodriguez. So far, Nelson has pitched five innings, only allowing one run with ten strikeouts. But here's the most impressive part of this small sample size; he has yet to walk a batter.

But even more promising is Nelson's uptick in fastball velocity. Last year, he sat 94.4 MPH. So far, Nelson has averaged 95.5 MPH with his four-seamer. He topped out at 97.2 MPH on the 24th against the Colorado Rockies. Nine of Nelson's 19 four-seamers have hit 96+ MPH on the radar gun. Last year, only about 12% of his four-seam fastballs hit 96+.

Nelson isn't guaranteed to land the final rotation spot. Tommy Henry did better than Nelson last season in the regular season and is off to a good start to Spring in his own right. However, reeling off ten straight strikeouts without allowing a walk is a very good way to start the Spring. His velocity increase will also be something to watch to see if he can keep it up over the course of a whole game.