Mets 2011 first-round draft-pick Brandon Nimmo seems to have become a bit of a polarizing figure amongst Mets fans these days. Some fans already see the young outfielder as a bust. Others, including yours truly, feel it’s still incredibly early to make such claims about a 20 year old in his first year of full-season baseball.
Nimmo started 2013 on the Mets’ Low A affiliate, the Savannah Sand Gnats, and he came out of the gate absolutely on fire. Consider his April slash line: .322/.421/.433. Small sample, of course, but the early results were incredibly encouraging. Though the power wasn’t quite where you’d like it to be, he certainly showed a knack for getting on base and putting the barrel on the ball. It should be noted that Historic Grayson Stadium is most certainly a pitcher’s park that is not particularly kind to left-handed hitters.
Unfortunately, Nimmo suffered a hand injury in late April. The issue wasn’t thought to be serious at first, but an abysmal performance in the handful of games after the injury and an inability to take batting practice forced him to the disabled list. While recovering his hand he also suffered a back injury, effectively shutting him down for a month.
Nimmo returned from the disabled list in late May and, as opposed to the start of his season, was absolutely awful. In June his triple slash was .250/.354./.344. That’s an OPS under .700. In July he was even worse: .212/.343./282. He continued to draw walks, but the strikeouts skyrocketed. Though still a premature conclusion, his performance was certainly bad enough to push those on the fence about him to the “bust” side.
Nimmo’s post-injury struggles had those with high hopes for him concerned. Was it a matter of the league adjusting and him not being able to adjust back? Had he simply just become over-matched? These were valid concerns, though most didn’t seem to account for the obvious: he was returning from a hand injury. Savannah Sand Gnats broadcaster and Mets minor league guru Toby Hyde had this to say about Nimmo in July:
“When he returned, it was fairly clear that Nimmo did not trust his hands and was compensating in other areas of his swing. He has admitted as much. Scouts and coaches noticed. Also, since his return, perhaps as a compensation mechanism, he has started landed [sic] more closed with his front stride foot. When his right foot lands too much closer to home plate than his back foot, it prevents his hips from clearing through the swing, and affects his hand path.”
It seemed clear that either his hand wasn’t completely healed or that he didn’t trust it fully once he returned. As if to prove this theory and that he’s gotten past it, Nimmo has been on a tear in August with a triple slash of .368/.525/.474. That’s just about a 1.000 OPS. He’s been hitting the ball harder, better at recognizing pitches and laying off of bad breaking balls, staying back longer, and improved his approach against lefties. He’s also been striking out at a much lower rate than he was in June and July while continuing to draw walks, with 23 walks and 23 strikeouts in August.
We’d all love for the 20 year old to have flown through the system, mashing his way to the majors before his 21st birthday. The fact of the matter is that just does not happen very often and Nimmo is no exception. Some prospects just take a little more time to get the hang of it.
You’ll most certainly see him take hits on many Mets prospects lists this offseason, but don’t let that deter you. Next year will be an especially important year for Nimmo. A strong first half in Advanced A next year could see him getting a taste of AA and the large jump in competition that comes with it. For that to happen, Nimmo will need to end this season strong. So far so good.
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