If you have watched a Met game in the past few years, you have probably seen Brandon Nimmo sprint down to first base after a walk. Nimmo is one of those players who hustles on every ball he puts in play, and sometimes he hustles even when the ball is not in play! If you haven’t had a chance to see him run around the bases like a mad man, you have probably seen him smiling in the dugout or on the field. Brandon loves to play baseball, and you can tell by the smile on his face, but the road to becoming the New York Mets primary leadoff man wasn’t an easy one.
Road To The Show
Brandon Tate Nimmo grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming and went to Cheyenne East High School where they don’t even have a high school baseball program. Nimmo played American Legion Baseball at 17 and did well enough there to earn a #35 ranking in Baseball America’s Top 50 Prospects in 2011. He was drafted 13th overall in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft by the New York Mets. Brandon cruised through the minors with nearly a 10% walk rate at almost every stop and made his major league debut on June 26, 2016. He struggled at the plate in the 32 MLB games he played that year with an 89 wRC+, but he was still able to post 0.1 fWAR largely thanks to his baserunning. A hamstring injury held Nimmo off the Mets opening day roster in 2017, but when he returned the Mets felt great about their 2011 1st round pick. In 69 games Brandon doubled his walk rate, improved his isolated slugging by 100 points, and put up 1.2 fWAR. A partially collapsed lung prevented him from finishing the season strong, but the improvements he made on the field were here to stay. Nimmo broke out in 2018 playing in 140 games and posting a .263/.404/.483 slash line with 4.5 fWAR. His poor defense in center field was overshadowed by smart baserunning and an impressive 148 wRC+. Unfortunately, Brandon was hit with the injury bug again in 2019 dealing with a bulging disk in his neck which only allowed him to play 69 games. His average dipped to .221, but he still got on base at an impressive rate of 37.5% and was able to put up 1.3 fWAR. Last year, in the 2020 shortened season Nimmo played 55 games and was as good as ever offensively posting a 148 wRC+ and 1.5 fWAR.
2021 And Beyond
As you might have already read, the Mets offense has been struggling to score runs so far this year, but that has nothing to do with Brandon. While 17 games is a very small sample size, he is off to a tremendous start slashing .370/.477/.500, good for a 177 wRC+. He has seen a slight increase in his average exit velocity so far this year, but he won’t be able to sustain a .514 BABIP all year, and he probably won’t bat .370. One thing he can keep up is his tremendous career walk rate of 15.1%, which is supported by a career chase rate of 16.8% (MLB average is 28.4%). Nimmo has proven his value offensively over the last few seasons, but his defense is what brings his value down and I don’t believe that has anything to do with his ability to play the outfield. It is obvious to me that Brandon plays much better defense in the corners than he can in center field, and I think he is being negatively affected by moving around the outfield so much. So far in his Mets career Nimmo has played 33% of his games in left field, 43% of his games in center field and 24% of his games in right field. Defensive statistics are not perfect, but both UZR/150 and DRS agree that left field is his best position and center field is his worst. Going forward I think the Mets can help Brandon by deploying him in left field most often and right field on days they need to move guys around. With a career 135 wRC+ and above average baserunning it is clear that Brandon is valuable offensively, now he just needs to improve his defense and take the next step in his career. Nimmo, who just turned 28, has one year of arbitration before he becomes a free agent and I think the Mets should consider buying out that last year and extending his contract. He has been an excellent player and teammate for the Mets organization and I hope they want him around for at least a few more years. As players age some of their skills begin to deteriorate, but Nimmo’s ability to reach base isn’t going anywhere any time soon and neither is the smile on his face.