Prospect Retro: Trot Nixon
Christopher Trotman Nixon was born April 11, 1974, in Evergreen, North Carolina. An outstanding high school player, he was drafted in the first round (seventh overall) by the Red Sox in 1993. He didn't make his pro debut until 1994, where he went to Lynchburg in the Carolina League. He got off to a hot start, hitting .287/.390/.533 through May 31st. Then he hurt his back, and pitched into a slump that drove his numbers down to .246/.357/.428 with 10 steals by the end of the campaign. His season ended early when the back pain became too much to deal with in late July. Eddie Epstein gave him a Grade B- in the 1995 Minor League Scouting Notebook, a grade I would have agreed with. Nixon's athleticism and power potential stood out, but the back was a big red flag.
Nixon began 1995 with Sarasota in the Florida State League, hitting .303/.404/.432 in 73 games. This earned him a promotion to Double-A, where he hit just .160/.214/.277 in 25 games. He was still bothered by back problems. I gave him a Grade B in the 1996 book, noting that he was "a fine prospect if healthy," but that back problems are often chronic and that I was concerned it would inhibit his development.
Returning to Double-A for '96, Nixon managed to remain healthy all year. His numbers weren't that good: .251/.329/.370. But he showed good plate discipline and contact ability (50 walks, 65 strikeouts in 438 at-bats), and scouts continued to praise both his tools and his work ethic. I gave him a Grade B in the '97 book, writing that "there is a reasonable chance that the tools guys are right about Nixon, and that he will eventually be a good player." The best n4ews was that his back problems appeared to be a thing of the past.
The Sox promoted Nixon to Triple-A in 1997. Although he hit 20 homers and drew 63 walks in 475 at-bats, his overall line was disappointing at .244/.331/.421. Scouts said that Nixon appeared to be "trying too hard" and was too hard on himself when things went bad. He pressed too much. There were also more rumors about his back, although he played a full season of 130 games. At this point, Nixon was best-regarded for strong outfield defense. His power was developing also, but there were doubts about how his batting average and OPB would hold up. I gave him a Grade C+ entering 1998.
Nixon finally broke out in 1998, hitting .310/.400/.513 with 23 homers and 26 steals for Pawtucket. The back problem was no longer an issue, and he appeared much more confident and sure of himself, less likely to press or get depressed when things didn't work out. I bumped his grade up to B+ in the 1999 book, rating him as a possible Seven Skill/Five Tool player and potential Rookie of the Year candidate.
Nixon hit .270/.357/.472 for the Red Sox in 1999, and has been a solid performer ever since, although injuries have nagged him. He hasn't been a superstar, but has been steadily productive. His major league record has been in line with his minor league record: a combination of moderate home run power with a solid walk rate and OBP. Right now it looks like his career season was 2003, when he hit .306/.396/.578 at age 29.
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