What a difference a year makes. This time last year, significantly more people thought that Brandon Nimmo was a bust than those who thought he was a major league regular. And then not only did he remove the bust label from his name, he went out and finished second in the league in OBP (.404) and OPS+ (150) and recorded a top 10 finish in 11 different offensive categories. And for good measure, his .996 fielding percentage was third among NL outfielders.
He advanced so much last year that this offseason, the majority of fans blanched at the idea of including him in trades for either Corey Kluber or J.T. Realmuto. Despite the rumors, Nimmo was not sent packing and manager Mickey Callaway said last month that Nimmo “needs to be leading off” in 2019. That’s good to hear, as Nimmo batted in a spot other than leadoff 75 times, compared to 65 games when he was atop the lineup card.
Last year was a magical season for Nimmo but it did not come without some warning signs, including a 26.2 K% and a .351 BABIP. Among the top 30 hitters last year in OBP, Nimmo had the highest strikeout percentage. Paul Goldschmidt was close with a 25.1 K% but he had 33 HR compared to Nimmo’s 17. Cand Nimmo whiff at this rate – and without a big power factor – and maintain his production?
And his BABIP was the 15th-highest in baseball. Only two players who were in the top 20 in BABIP in 2017 repeated the ranking in 2018. Some thought Avisail Garcia was finally putting it together with his big 2017 season. But he was unable to duplicate his .392 BABIP of that season, dropping to a .271 mark last year. Tim Beckham went from a .365 mark to a .282 one. Trey Mancini dropped 67 points. Fans of those teams thought those guys were on the path to something big. And it didn’t turn out to be the case at all.
So, what do the computer models think of Nimmo’s chances in 2019? We’ve got a new entry to include this week, as Derek Carty’s THE BAT forecasts are now available on individual pages at FanGraphs.
THE BAT – 601 PA, .240/.351/.407, 18 HR, 61`RBIs
Marcel — 489 PA, .262/.380/.447, 14 HR, 47 RBIs
Steamer – 588 PA, .240/.353/.398, 15 HR, 53 RBIs
Carty’s system also sees Nimmo putting up a higher K% than a year ago, with a 27.2 mark. Steamer sees a slight improvement, with a 25.6 rate. Neither of them sees the BABIP of a year ago, although both have him with above average marks. THE BAT sees a .317 BABIP while Steamer forecasts a .312 mark. For what it’s worth, Nimmo has a .355 lifetime mark in the majors, in 830 PA.
Here’s my completely biased take on Nimmo for 2019:
650 PA, .265/.375/.450, 11 HR, 52 RBIs
The home run category is the hardest one for me to make a guess. Nimmo had 13 HR in the first half of last year and only four after the All-Star break. But as weird as that was, what’s even stranger is that he posted a higher OPS in the second half of the season, with a .917 mark compared to an .863 one in the first half of the year. He hit for a slightly better AVG but what really drove that second half OPS was an insane .446 OBP
My expectation is that the power goes down but the strikeouts go down, too. And while the BABIP drops, it does not come close to the drop expected by the computer models. My forecast would be a really good year. But it wouldn’t be a 150 OPS+ season. How will the fans react if Nimmo puts up a 125 OPS+ this year, instead?
You’ll have more credibility in the future if you chime in now with what you think Nimmo will do this year. Next week, Zack Wheeler goes under the forecast microscope.