With a smile that shines brighter than any floodlight he plays under, Brandon Nimmo has become a fan favorite through his hustle and pure delight at playing the game of baseball. Fans of the New York Mets have become accustomed to his penchant for getting on base, and for his signature sprint to first base after he draws a walk. While Nimmo is undoubtedly one of the more charming players in baseball, it is possible that his mishaps in center field have begun to outweigh his productivity at the plate. With recent defensive stats being released on Monday to the public, the metrics echo that sentiment.
According to the MLB, OAA (Outs Above Average) is a range-based metric of skill that shows how many runs a player has saved. The positive Mets fan will look at the report and report what we have been watching all season. It comes as no surprise to see that Andres Gimenez is ranked amongst the best defensive infielders in the game, with an OAA of 4. This is a mark shared with the likes of Fernando Tatis Jr. and Francisco Lindor. A more pessimistic fan will look at Nimmo’s rating of -4 and see that he is tied for the worst OAA amongst outfielders.
While this seems extremely alarming, Michael Conforto has registered a rating of -3. The difference between the two players however is that Conforto has put up a campaign that has earned him a spot in the NL MVP conversation while Nimmo has been pedestrian at best with the bat in his hand. While it is not fair that Nimmo is being forced to play in an outfield position that is unnatural to him, his offense this season has not warranted sacrificing centerfield defense to keep his bat in the lineup.
The calling card of Nimmo’s career is that he has always been able to reach base, and his OBP is ranked 10th in the NL at a mark of .388. Ironically, this mark puts him third on the team, behind Conforto and the resurgent Jeff McNeil. Nimmo ranks high in the NL in other offensive categories that you’d expect, tied for 7th in walks, 16th in hits, and 17th in total bases. While it is fantastic that the Mets have an outfield that is producing at a high clip offensively, they have never needed a defensively competent outfield as much as they do now.
The pitching staff of the Mets needs all the help that they can get, and it will be the same case next season. The offense won’t always be able create an 18-run security blanket like they did on September 11th, so it is crucial that they put up a defense that is able to make plays behind a rotation that’s only consistency is Jacob deGrom every five starts. Nimmo can’t be considered a solid option at center field behind pitchers who give up hits like the Mets rotation does. The issue is that he can’t be moved to the corners because of the offensive prowess of Conforto and McNeil, along with the terrific defense that McNeil has brought to the outfield.
Because of this logjam in the corners, it might be worth considering Nimmo more valuable to the Mets as a trade piece than as a center fielder on the team. There would be teams interested in the way that Nimmo can reach base, and could play him naturally in his corner spot. This would open up a roster spot for the Mets to acquire someone who could adequately play centerfield, and hold the spot until Peter Crow-Armstrong graduates to the big leagues.
The fact of the matter is that strong defense always begins up the middle. As of right now, the Mets have Gimenez as their strongest middle infielder, which is a great start. They still need to work on the catcher position, which is something that can be addressed this offseason by Steve Cohen with the addition of J.T. Realmuto, should he be healthy by the time the offseason rolls around. That leaves centerfield in need of a defensive overhaul, where the Mets have not had a solid defender that could wield a good bat since Carlos Beltran.
It is inarguable that Nimmo can be an offensive catalyst in a lineup, but his poor defense in centerfield is not worth what he brings to the plate offensively. It would be ideal for the Mets to somehow find a way to get Nimmo in one of the corners on a regular basis, but that seems unlikely. For that reason, Nimmo is more valuable to the Mets as a trade piece rather than as a center fielder that consistently has his on base skills overshadowed by his inability to play that position defensively.
Nimmo has a -4 OAA
Nimmo is 10th in the NL with an OBP of .388
Nimmo is tied for 7th in the NL in walks