The Mets faltering August shows that the team will likely need some upgrades at several positions, notably third base and corner outfielder. Since the trading deadline has come, any significant move would have to come in the offseason. One position that looks like it will not need to be changed is center fielder.

For some years now the Mets have looked to acquire a true CF. Juan Lagares won a Gold Glove in 2014, and ever since then the club has been on a quest for an every day center fielder. Just this past offseason players like George Springer and Jackie Bradley Jr. were thought to be on the Mets radar, but both ended up elsewhere.

Meanwhile, over the past few seasons Brandon Nimmo has been seeing more and more action in center, and less in left field. Few would doubt his value at the plate, but the consensus was he was hurting the team in the field at center. That is, until this season.

So far, in 54 games, mostly in CF, Nimmo has played errorless ball. More importantly, FanGraphs DRS (defensive runs saved) metric has him in positive territory at plus four so far this season. The eye test shows he has played some great ball in the field also. His signature play this year occurred on July 10 at home against the Pirates when Bryan Reynolds smashed a long drive that had home run written all over it. Nimmo raced at full speed to the center field wall, then made a perfectly-timed leap to snag the blast as it was about to clear the fence, a classic circus catch that robbed a homer.

Nimmo has said he started tinkering with his positioning late in the 2020 season, and carried it over into this year. Specifically, he is now playing deeper than he used to in center. So far, that change has paid defensive dividends for Nimmo and the Mets. Obviously, there will be a few more singles hit in front of him that might have been outs if he was playing in more, but more importantly he is converting some drives in the gaps into outs instead of extra-base hits.

Of course, a center fielder has to be productive at the plate as well as in the field to really help his team, and Nimmo is fulfilling that part of the equation as well. His current slash line is .285/.417/.390. Nimmo is normally the leadoff hitter, and that high OBP is exactly what you want from that spot in the batting order.

Nimmo has had a few injuries that have impacted his play over the years, and 2021 is no exception. He had a detached hand ligament injury in May that sidelined him after a hot start, and more recently he missed some games by straining his hamstring making a diving catch. Like the team, Nimmo has been cold this August with a BA of just .190, with perhaps lingering effects of his hamstring contributing to that.

As to those players the Mets had been kicking the tires on last offseason, George Springer has done well for Toronto, but he is 31, an age where production is likely to fall off sooner rather than later. The Mets did offer him a generous free agent contract, but Springer preferred the Toronto deal and signed with them. As to Bradley, his slash line this year is a microscopic .176/.251/.287.

Although the Mets checked out other CF options over the years, the answer may have been in the organization the whole time. Nimmo is right near his peak at age 28, and has been providing plus defense at the critical CF position. He is a good hitter with elite on base skills, and decent power as well. The Mets extended search for a new center fielder just might be moot. Hopefully there will be no repeat of the disaster that was the early ‘70s quest to fortify third base. That action brought in Joe Foy and then Jim Fregosi to take over at third, and both were underwhelming to say the least. What hurt even more was the players shipped off to Kansas City and Anaheim to obtain them, specifically Amos Otis and Nolan Ryan.

7 comments on “Brandon Nimmo is establishing himself in center field this year

  • Wobbit

    Nimmo has certainly improved, but I believe he has reached his peak defensively. He is just a very upright player, with a fairly weak arm… quite mediocre. The Mets can get by with him in CF in the future if they have some strong corner OFers.

    Ideally, Nimmo would move to LF, where he would be more than adequate. I believe the Mets should have gone after Marte hard.

    • Brian Joura

      I agree that Nimmo’s arm is the weakest part of his defense. I’m curious how you think having strong corner OFers is going to affect that. If Range was his problem, which it’s not, if you had speedy guys in the corner then you could expect that they could make some plays for him. Do you expect Nimmo to flip the ball to a corner OF so they can make the throw, instead?

      In the last three years, which includes 2020 when Nimmo was terrible, here are the DRS and UZR numbers for Nimmo and Marte:
      Nimmo – (-4) DRS, (-3) UZR
      Marte – (-7) DRS, (-3) UZR

      The idea that Marte would provide some great defensive upgrade is a myth.

  • TexasGusCC

    Nice piece John. As we expected, Nimmo at least held his own at CF. What we didn’t expect, is he has more than held his own. While FanGraphs also has Springer as a negative dWAR player (and worse than last year), Nimmo is a positive dWAR. The two have similar fWAR per 100 PA, but the surprise has been Nimmo’s power outage. He’s usually good for around 4 homeruns per 100 at-bats, but this year he has been at 1 homerun per 100 at bats. Conversely, Springer is at about 7 homeruns per 100 at bats.

    I’d like to look into extending Nimmo this winter. He will be going into his walk year but he doesn’t give the impression that if you give him the contract now, he will pull a “Lindor” on you. Those guys are always talking about their contract, and I just don’t see Nimmo in that light. I think 4/$50MM would be close.

    • Foxdenizen

      Thanks for the kind words Gus. I agree an extension would be in order for Nimmo, the way he hustles there is no way he would start loafing if he were locked into a long term contract

  • TJ

    John Olerud put up hall of fame statistics over his 3 year Met career, including a .425 OBP. He is the only Met with substantial games played to outperform Nimmo in this stat. Despite the reality that I may be able to throw better than him, this guy is a contributor on offense and defense. Even before Conforto’s freefall Nimmo was the better value. He does get hurt a lot but seems to have overcome the serious neck issue. He is a guy I would keep as the primary CF.

  • Mike W

    I am thrilled that Nimmo has taken a big step in the right direction this year. He is a good outfielder who gets on base. Yes, I think he should be the CF next year. Will be much easier to find corner outfielders than a CF. I would like to see the Mets add two corner outfielders. Maybe the dreaded Cano can play OF. (Not)

    Will be an interesting off season. But, I still have hope they can get out if their funk and still compete. They must start by getting wind this week against the Nats and see the Phillies cool off vs the Dodgers.

  • Wobbit

    I’m a little perplexed at what is causing Nimmo’s power outage. There have been many at bats this season when a Nimmo homer would have changed the game, but that is seeming more and more remote. Any ideas?

    When one considers that Nimmo may still get better offensively, especially if he can avoid major injuries, he seems like a good one to extend. I’d still like to see the Mets get an excellent defender in CF, even if he hits 9th… kind of like Cesar Geronimo did for the Reds… move Nimmo to LF, where his arm weakness can be minimized.

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