Age: 28
Born: July 15, 1982
Height: 6′ 0″
Weight: 215
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Signed: International FA, Houston Astros, 1999
How Acquired: Minor League FA
Agent: Alan Nero


Nieve was a product of the Astros’ once-productive Venezuelan scouting pipeline. He was regarded as a good prospect coming up through the Houston system, ranking among the Astros’ top ten prospects for three straight years according to Baseball America, reaching as high as #3. Although he’s not a big guy, his main pitch was always a heavy fastball that he generally threw around 91-93, topping out around 97. He also throws a slider, curve and change, but those pitches have never been consistently effective. In the majors he’s tended to average around 92 as a starter and a little higher as a reliever. He has strong flyball tendencies, which no doubt have contributed to some severe gopher ball problems in the majors. The Pirates signed Nieve to a minor league deal for 2011, with a non-roster invite to spring training.

2001-04: Worked his way steadily upward, generally with good K and hit rates but somewhat high walk rates.

2005: Pitched very well across the board in big first half in AA, including improved control. Got hit much harder in second half in AAA and began running into gopher ball problems.

2006: Spent most of season in majors and pitched respectably as starter, well as reliever. Held back by significant HR problems.

2007-08: Missed most of 2007 season with elbow injury and ultimately had Tommy John surgery. Spent most of 2008 working his way back in AAA bullpen, where he struggled some.

2009: Acquired by Mets on waivers. Promoted to majors in early June and joined rotation, pitching extremely well in first three starts. Struggled after that, eventually having season end early with torn thigh muscle.

2010: Opened season in Mets’ bullpen and was used heavily. Pitched well until about mid-May, when workload may have started to take toll; had 8.22 ERA after May 12. Hit and K rates were good, but walk rate was a little high and HR rate was alarming. HR rate might have been much worse if not for Mets’ home park, which allows very few HRs: eight of ten HRs allowed were on road. Mets designated him for assignment in late July and he struggled after that in AAA.

Nieve has had limited success in the majors as both a starter and reliever, but has always been undone by various combinations of injuries, inconsistent offspeed stuff, massive gopher ball problems, and possibly overuse. Unlike some pitchers, he didn’t improve dramatically when he shifted to relief, so it’s not clear which role is best for him. On the plus side, he’s maintained his velocity despite the injuries and has shown an ability to miss bats in the majors some of the time. Now that he’s three years removed from the Tommy John surgery, it’s possible he could start putting things together if he was used realistically. If he doesn’t win a spot in the Pirates’ bullpen, he could pitch either as a starter or reliever in Indianapolis, depending on who else is on the staff there. The Pirates have said they’ll try him as a starter first, but it’s hard to see him winning a spot in the major league rotation out of spring training. At worst, he should be a reasonable option for a callup if need arises, which is likely enough with the Pirates.

Baseball Reference–Majors
Baseball Reference–Minors
2011: Minor League Contract
2010: $414,000
2009: $414,000
2006: $327,000
2005: $316,000
Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2001
MLB Debut: 4/4/2006
MiLB FA Eligible: Eligible
MLB FA Eligible: N/A
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: N/A
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2005, 2007, 2008)
MLB Service Time: 2.099
May 11, 1999: Signed by the Houston Astros as an international free agent.
November 19, 2003: Contract purchased by the Houston Astros.
March 14, 2009: Claimed off of waivers by the New York Mets.
March 31, 2009: Designated for assignment by the New York Mets.
April 2, 2009: Outrighted to AAA by the New York Mets.
June 5, 2009: Contract purchased by the New York Mets.
July 23, 2010: Designated for assignment by the New York Mets.
July 28, 2010: Outrighted to AAA by the New York Mets.
December 1, 2010: Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a minor league free agent.