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Everything You Need to Know About Brandon Nimmo

You must be a fan of cliffhangers if you’ve been following New York Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo. After an offseason of trade talk, fantasy owners breathed a sigh of relief when it was Wilson Ramos announced as the team's newest cash signing, rather than the potential Nimmo - J.T. Realmuto deal proposed between the Mets and the Marlins earlier this month.

For some, expectations on Nimmo remain tepid, while others recognize the 25-year-old for what he truly was last year: a blossoming MVP candidate. Sounds absurd, but not when you peek at the numbers. Last year Nimmo finished second in the National League in wRC+ behind only Christian Yelich, as well as second in OBP (.404) and fourth in wOBA (.385). With eight triples to his name (fourth-most in the National League) and a mighty high walk rate, an uptick in homers might be enough to put Nimmo in the conversation in 2019.

While Mets fans ponder what could have been, we now turn our attention to what could be. With regular playing time and a spot in the starting lineup guaranteed this season, it’s safe to say you won’t be finding Nimmo on waivers midway through the year. Instead, Nimmo presents as a serious sleeper pick this season that, for the most part, continues to fly under the radar. Here’s a look at what you need to know:

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The Upside

We’ve already touched on Nimmo’s high walk rate, but with the future of Yoenis Cespedes up in the air due to injury, you can lock Nimmo in for a spot as the Mets’ starting center fielder on Opening Day. That leaves New York with Michael Conforto, Nimmo, and Juan Lagares as their starting three, which doesn’t sound half-bad considering Cespedes could return by the All-Star break.

Aside from more at-bats and regular playing time, however, the biggest thing to love is his plate vision.

Drafted with the 13th overall pick in the 2011 draft, former Baseball Prospectus writer Jason Parks had this to say after scouting Nimmo back in 2014.

“Nimmo is still figuring out what kind of player he is going to be. He's built like a power hitter but approaches his at-bats like a table-setter, and his game fits that mold. While none of his traditional tools stand out, he does have one premium ability—plate discipline. He refuses to expand the strike zone, even when he has an easy run-producing opportunity. He can be an above-average hitter, but the hit tool will play up because of the plate discipline. He could be a plus on-base player. His defensive profile is still a question, but if he gets on base and provides plus defense in an outfield corner, he could start on a first-division team.”

It’s a dead-on analysis, especially regarding Nimmo’s on-base skills. Nimmo sees the ball from a mile away, and while there’s no doubt his bat speed and uppercut style swinging motion hurt his chances at more home runs, Nimmo’s average exit velocity remains encouraging. Among hitters with at least 150 batted ball events, Nimmo ranked 95th last season with an average exit velocity of 89.6 MPH. That doesn’t sound great, but to put it in perspective, he finished one spot below Cubs shortstop Javier Baez, who finished runner-up in NL MVP voting with 34 HR and 111 RBI. It’s highly doubtful we ever see Nimmo reach those kinds of numbers, but a home run total in the mid-20s is certainly plausible.


The Comparison

Choosing a player to compare Nimmo to wasn’t easy. His 17 HR and 15% walk rate in 2018 lines up nicely with the likes of Shin-Shoo Choo or Ben Zobrist in their prime, but with nine steals to his name, it’s hard to see Nimmo ever becoming a 20/20 type player. The best comparison might be Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder, Steven Souza Jr. The 29-year-old veteran once held similar walk totals to Nimmo (13.6% walk rate in 2017), but he steals hardly ever and strikes out a helluva lot.

If there’s one area of Nimmo’s game that will hinder his progress towards becoming an elite five-tool hitter though, its strikeouts. In the 140 games he played in with the Mets last year, Nimmo struck out an equal number of times, leaving him with the 12th-highest strikeout rate in the league.

Despite having only half as many plate appearances as Nimmo, Souza finished with a 26.2% strikeout rate last season. If we’re talking power, despite Souza’s 30 HR season in 2017, Nimmo looks likely to flirt with the 20 HR mark, just like Souza, throughout the course of his career.

Last but not least, the biggest similarity between the two has to be contact. Both hitters work with an extremely small strike zone and rarely swing at pitches thrown outside of it. A patient approach at the plate makes Nimmo, like Souza, a line drive hitter (21.6% last year), but the fact Nimmo's hard-hit rate continues to skyrocket is a promising sign.

Equally as encouraging are Nimmo's contact numbers. Souza made contact with close to 75% of the pitches he saw last year, an almost identical number to Nimmo, made all the more impressive considering the disparity between their plate appearances. All of these tools have also helped Nimmo draw a large bag of walks, most of which came against righties. He drew 64 against right-handed pitchers compared to the 16 he drew against southpaws last season, and although the stolen base numbers could plummet as Nimmo fills out more physically, he remains one of the most well-disciplined hitters in the Mets' lineup.


The Projection

Nimmo's current ADP, according to NFBC, is 167.51, placing him somewhere in the ballpark of Round 14. That's good value in deeper leagues considering Nimmo is projected to fall alongside other outfielders like Andrew McCutchen and Nomar Mazara, but his upside is far and away much higher than those two. He should be targeted around the 12th round instead and may not even last that long as Spring Training draws nearer and draft values adjust.

Say what you will about Sandy Alderson, but his first ever draft pick as former Mets GM could turn out to be a resounding success. And to think, the Mets nearly lost Nimmo in the trade that sent Jay Bruce to New York in 2016. Now, they have a reliable leadoff hitter controlled through 2022 that should turn out to be one of the top sleeper stashes entering next season.

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