When the Mets selected Brandon Nimmo with the 13th-overall pick of the 2011 Draft, no one was sure what the team was getting, even more so than with most draft picks. With Spring Training games now underway in 2017, in some ways, things haven’t changed much. Can anyone answer the question of what the Mets have with Nimmo?
Ideally, they would have someone ready to take over the center field position in 2018, once Curtis Granderson moved on when his contract was up. It would be okay if Nimmo proved capable of being the larger half of a CF platoon, allowing the club to find some regular playing time for Juan Lagares. It would even be acceptable if he became a reliable bench player, someone capable of filling in at all three outfield positions whenever needed.
Since the Mets are willing to play Granderson in center at his advanced age and after not playing the position regularly in years, it’s clear they are not adamant about having a defensive whiz at the position. Yet even knowing that, do you have any idea if the Mets consider Nimmo a center fielder right now on anything more than a temporary/sporadic basis?
Nimmo played all of nine innings in center in the majors last year. It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for future employment at the position. Yet with Yoenis Cespedes now on a multi-year contract and Michael Conforto still firmly in the team’s plans, if Nimmo is to make any kind of major impact for the club, the most likely place is in center field.
A bunch of leg injuries suffered in the minors has robbed Nimmo of his once plus speed. A player with great instincts could compensate for that but no scouting report that jumps to mind has ever labeled Nimmo with that defensive attribute.
The Mets have played two Grapefruit League games and Nimmo has seen action in both of them. Yet even here where wins and losses are of a secondary importance, the Mets have played Nimmo in left field rather than center. Instead, they’ve used this time to see Champ Stuart in center. You may recall that Stuart had a 36.0 K% in 203 PA in Double-A last year. Stuart has been up to bat three times so far and struck out in all three.
It’s disappointing if you want to see if Nimmo can hack it in center and instead see early playing time going to Stuart. Now, odds are likely that Stuart will be among the first cuts in camp. But the regulars will start playing more and the club certainly wants Lagares to get a big number of PA this Spring.
Additionally, it looks like the Mets play just three split-squad games in Grapefruit League play – Mar 8, 10 and 27.
Nimmo had a pretty good year with the bat in Triple-A last year, putting up a .352/.423/.541 line in 444 PA. But remember we have to take the air out of those stats. Our standard translations show that as the equivalent of a .342 OBP and a .357 SLG in the majors. In 80 PA with the Mets last year, Nimmo produced a .338/.329 OBP/SLG.
Can the 6’3, 205 pounder produce better slugging marks in the majors? He had just two extra-base hits so the answer better be yes. The OBP looks okay but the slugging is a big question mark. Recall that the Mets were happy with Kirk Nieuwenhuis defensively. But with his .704 OPS in 669 PA with the club, the Mets decided he couldn’t be a platoon player, even with an .855 OPS against righties in 2014.
So, we’re hopeful of seeing Nimmo get some time in center during Grapefruit League play. We’d also like to see some power from him. Preferably he’ll do both of these things, in Spring Training and wherever he opens the year. He’s going to have to do at least one of them to avoid being nothing more than the 25th man on the roster, a spot that will be his only as long as he’s not being paid much.
Assuming no major deal and no major injury, the Mets will have to decide if Conforto or Nimmo is the club’s fifth outfielder for Opening Day. Normally in this situation, whoever has the better Spring would get the gig. But the club has to determine if regular playing time for Conforto trumps being on the bench. Because at this juncture, everyone views Conforto as a future starter. And Nimmo looks more and more like he’s destined to land on the island of misfit toys.