Brandon Nimmo; A Word

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I wrote about the Mets recently, and how this year has been very dark for them. Since then it’s only gotten darker with even more injuries sustained by role players. It’s been a rough year for the Mets. I was assigned the Reds v. Mets game yesterday because I must have done something in my past life that led to this, like kicking Ghandi in the shins. Although it was a relatively unremarkable game, Brandon Nimmo caught my attention. Granted, yes, it was against Reds pitching, but he had three balls that were hit 90+ MPH, including two home runs. I decided to take a look at his stat line this morning, and hey; he hasn’t been half bad.

Right now, Nimmo is running a 130 wRC+ and is slashing .283/.416/.424. It’s not utterly dominant, but there’s a lot to like here. People forget that Nimmo was a first rounder, and was eventually the #45 prospect for Baseball America. There is absolutely pedigree here. And, you wouldn’t believe it, but Nimmo was drafted out of Wyoming which isn’t exactly a baseball hotbed. It’s possible he needed a little bit of time to adjust to higher competition, and he was likely a cold weather kid as well and hadn’t seen as much time as players in Florida, Texas, and California. Basically what I’m getting at is he has the makings of a “late bloomer” type profile, despite being in pro ball since 2011. He’s stunningly only 24 years old, and last season he quietly put up a 159 wRC+in AAA, which is still impressive despite the league’s offense-heavy tendencies. When he was drafted, Baseball America wrote that Nimmo “has outstanding barrel awareness, consistently squaring balls up and shooting line drives to all fields”, adding that he should be an above-average hitter. Let’s dig into the batted ball profile and see what Nimmo has done this year.

First, we’ll look at the breakdown of his spray lines. And it’s beautiful. A 25.7% pull percentage, 45.7% center field percentage, and a 28.6% opposite field percentage. If he qualified, Nimmo would rank first by 1.5% (David Freese is at 44.2%). In fact, when we look at the hitters in the top ten, it becomes somewhat interesting.

 

1.) David Freese – 44.2%

2.) Jean Segura – 43.2%

3.) Khris Davis – 41.7%

4.) Manuel Margot – 40.8%

4.) Hunter Pence – 40.8%

6.) Mark Trumbo – 40.6%

7.) Lorenzo Cain – 40.4%

8.) Justin Turner – 39.9%

9.) DJ LeMahieu – 39.7%

9.) Michael Conforto – 39.7%

 

The average wRC+ for this group? A cool 111 wRC+. As you can see, there’s a considerable correlation here between high center field spray percentages and above-average offensive performance. Many of these hitters are not the “new age” of baseball with high pull/fly ball percentages and prodigious power, but rather the line drive hitters of old. There is still value in this approach, it’s just becoming harder and harder to find. Looking at his hard hit rate of 34.3%, we see that he’d be tied with Andrew McCutchen at 78th overall, sandwiched in between Avisail Garcia, and Evan Longoria. Right in this area we start to see more of these line drive hitters popping up, but there are still a lot of good hitters around where Nimmo ranks. Here’s where things start to get really interesting.

Joey Votto currently ranks first in O-swing% at a stunningly low 15.7%. Who cares, right? Well, you should. Nimmo is sitting at an obscene 16.6% O-swing%. If qualified, only Votto’s would be higher. Amongst some of the league leaders in O-swing%, you see some of the most elite on-base machines in the league. Nimmo is sitting at a .416 OBP. All of a sudden, that number doesn’t seem so fluky. Last year pitchers threw Nimmo a pitch in the zone 40.7% of the time. This year, that number has jumped up to 45.7%. So why are pitchers being so much more aggressive with him? Well, again, he’s not swinging at balls. He’s forcing pitchers to challenge him in the zone, but even then he’s swinging 15.4% less of the time at those (54.2% this year compared to 69.6% last year) and is swinging way less overall, sitting at a 34.6% swing percentage as opposed to last year’s 47.3%. He would rank first in swing% if qualified (as in not swinging), and again joins the ranks of the OBP monsters in baseball. His contact rates are still slightly above-average, but there seems to be a very deliberate change in approach.

I don’t think Nimmo will ever be a star. But there are a lot of exciting indicators that he could be a nice piece for the Mets moving forward. When I think of this new version of Nimmo, a guy that is very selective both in and out of the zone, I imagine a line of about .280/.350/.420 (think 110-12o wRC+) which is a nice player to have. I think he’ll end up being a league-average guy, as corner outfield spots aren’t exactly the most valuable defensive position, especially if you’re just ok out there. Kick in 10-15 home runs annually and chip in a couple stolen bases, and all of a sudden Brandon Nimmo becomes an asset. My immediate thought about Nimmo was Nick Markakis, and sure enough Markakis’ career slash line is .288/.358/.424 (110 wRC+) which is almost identical to the line I’d expect Nimmo to have.

Yes it’s only a short blurb, but I had to get this out here about Brandon Nimmo. If he can file a restraining order against the Mets’ medical staff, Mets fans might have a fun player to watch next year, and fantasy owners could find a potential sleeper. While he won’t set the world on fire by any means, he could certainly help a Mets rebuild/retooling phase, especially if it takes Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith awhile to adjust to big-league pitching. For now, maybe Mets fans do have a reason to watch September baseball.

 

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