There are 14 players in the majors with at least 100 PA and a .400 OBP. Brandon Nimmo ranks fourth with a .423 mark. The three players ahead of him are Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. The two guys behind him are Kris Bryant and Brandon Belt. You have to be a pretty good player to post an OBP that high and it looks like maybe the Mets are finally coming around to embrace what they have with Nimmo.
Last year, Nimmo had to establish that he could play in the majors. But even when he did, Terry Collins was not prepared to use him properly. Nimmo played in 28 games in September, made 27 starts and hit leadoff just one time. This year, Mickey Callaway started Nimmo just six times in the team’s first 29 games. And given the slow starts by both Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto and the injury issues of Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes – that was borderline negligent. But even Callaway is coming around. Here’s what he told Dan Martin of the New York Post recently:
“I think we need him to be our consistent leadoff hitter at this point,’’ Callaway said. “I think he’s got a good chance — even if he doesn’t get a hit — to get on base for us. [Nimmo] in that leadoff position consistently is what we need to do as much as possible.”
Starting Wednesday and leading off, Nimmo went 2-3 with a homer and a walk, with one of the hits coming off a lefty. Nimmo’s numbers have taken a little dip this month as he gets his first consistent exposure to LHP. Overall he has a .492 OPS against lefties this year in 24 PA but in his last 12 trips to the plate against southpaws, Nimmo has a .697 OPS with three hits and a walk.
So, everything is all well and good now that there’s an easy spot in the lineup with Cespedes on the DL. But what happens when he returns to the active roster? You know Cespedes is going to play if he’s healthy. Will Callaway work to get Nimmo in the lineup? Or will he just do a paint by numbers managerial job and play the guys with more service time?
It’s my opinion that Nimmo has to play. And that means being in the lineup every day and not a day here and a day there to give people rest. Now, it’s fine if he plays all three outfield positions while he’s playing every day. But we’re past the point of giving people starts to get them going. The Mets have a guy in Nimmo who is already going and he shouldn’t sit for an unproductive guy because that guy has a longer track record. And it doesn’t matter if that guy is Bruce, Conforto or Adrian Gonzalez.
Back on March 10, in a column entitled, Perception and Reality for Brandon Nimmo and the Mets – in the comments section faithful readers Chris F shared a quote from former MLB GM Jim Bowden about Nimmo:
“Nimmo still doesn’t have enough power or speed to be an everyday player in the major leagues. His best fit is as a fourth or fifth outfielder who can play all three positions.”
I thought that comment was garbage at the time and nothing that happened in Spring Training or the first 45 games of the season has changed my mind. But unfortunately the Mets don’t consult me on player moves.
So, will the Mets continue to play Nimmo when Cespedes returns?
No doubt some of you out there are completely unconcerned with this issue. Who knows when Cespedes will return and there’s no telling if someone else will be injured in the interim. That’s not the worst plan in the world but it also puts the team in a constant position of reacting rather than acting through advance planning.
One can argue that a lack of advance planning by the front office led the Mets to sign Bruce as a free agent to a three-year deal. If they had any belief in Nimmo and his ability to be a consistent high OBP guy – there’s no way they make that deal with Cespedes and Conforto already on the team.
Nimmo is such an interesting case because he was the first draft pick by the Alderson-era Mets and he delivers in spades what the front office allegedly craves – OBP. If ever there was a player that the front office should have a vested interest in seeing succeed, it’s Nimmo. Yes, he battled injuries throughout his climb through the minor league system and he didn’t deliver on the five-tool forecast back from when he was drafted. But he had a .388 OBP in 2,507 PA in the minors and a .367 OBP in 295 PA in the majors in 2016-17.
Why didn’t they believe in him?
The Bowden quote from earlier is an indication that others had doubts, too. But maybe there’s a reason that Bowden is a former GM and just because he can string words together coherently in front of the camera is no reason to take his opinion on player evaluation seriously.
The pertinent question now is – Why should we believe that 104 PA in 2018 has changed an opinion of Nimmo formed by the powers to be over 3,000 previous PA in the organization? Do they believe in him now only because there’s an opening with Cespedes being hurt? If that’s the case – that’s not good enough.
It’s beyond debate that the key to being a good offensive team is to have guys with high OBP and high SLG marks in your lineup. While no one expects Nimmo to post a .400 OBP over an entire season, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be among the team leaders in the category. Last year, he finished second to Conforto among those with at least 100 PA, with a .379 mark – just five points behind what Conforto posted.
Callaway’s words quoted above sound good – as long as you ignore the part where he says, “at this point.” It sounds like a weasel phrase, one designed to sound encouraging to the player but still giving the organization cover to go back to the usage pattern we saw in April and early May when Conforto returned to the lineup. And that’s unacceptable to me.
During last night’s game, the SNY crew interviewed Dave Eiland during the game and they seemed awfully impressed with the direct answers that Eiland gave. While Eiland has no say in the usage of Nimmo, it sure would be nice if Callaway would say in no uncertain terms what shouldn’t have to be said but unfortunately clearly does.
Nimmo is an integral part of the 2018 team and getting him starts is not a nebulous goal but an imperative if the team is to have their best chance to succeed.