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The View From Behind the Backstop: Mets outfield prospect Brandon Nimmo

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After some offseason tweaks to his swing, how does the Mets 2011 first round pick look now?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Nimmo
OF, Binghamton Mets (AA)
Height, weight: 6'3", 205
Age (2015 season age): 23
Acquired: 1st round (13), 2011 ($2,100,000)
Date(s) seen: 4/23-4/26 @ New Hampshire Fisher Cats: 6-17, 2B, 2 R, 2 BB, 3 K
2015 so far: 198 PA, .303/.369/.416, 36 K, 15 BB

At the plate

There has been a fair amount written about Nimmo's swing changes this past offseason, but the early returns were mixed for me. Everything is much quieter pre-swing, and his stance is narrower than it was when I saw him last summer. The bat starts and stays on his shoulder now, and he loads his hands down and back, but it is a more mechanical process compared to last year and adds some length to his swing at times. Most concerning, Nimmo struggled with average velocity away from both lefties and righties, which is also new. He has never shown plus bat speed, but was late on fastballs more often than any time I saw him previously. He continues to struggle with same-side pitching. He has issues picking up spin and turns into a guess hitter too much against southpaws.

Nimmo will still show you good pull power in batting practice, but his best in-game swings came when working gap-to-gap or going back up the middle. The narrower stance does allow him to get a little more explosion out of the hips, but he's maxed out physically at this point and lacks much in the way of future power projection. That's not really a big deal, as it is above-average raw power, but I do wonder how much the swing and approach will allow it to play in games.

None of what I wrote above is new to the Nimmo scouting report, though continuing to see the same issues at higher levels is a red flag. But the idea of Brandon Nimmo, national top 100 prospect, is based in large part on his superior strike zone control. The idea is that his approach will make everything else play up (and give him a nice shiny on-base percentage as well). There is something to the idea that it may be more passivity than patience at this point though. I've complained before that I want to see Nimmo just zone a 2-0 or 3-1 fastball and just tear the cover off the ball, and that still is an issue. Some of it is bat speed, some of it is being "too fine" in approach, but pitchers at higher levels (and even in Double-A) can attack you even in hitter's counts, and I am not entirely confident in how Nimmo will handle that.

Hit

Current Grade: 35 (Well-below average)

Future Grade: 45 (Fringe-average)

Raw Power

Current Grade: 60 (Above-average/Plus)

Future Grade: 60 (Above-average/Plus)

Game Power

Current Grade: 40 (Below-average)

Future Grade: 50 (Average)

In the field

A lot of how you feel about Brandon Nimmo, major league prospect, will be determined by how convinced you are he can stick in center field. I've always liked Nimmo's glove there well enough, and that is still the case with some caveats. He continues to improve year-over-year with his breaks and routes, and is a much more instinctual center fielder than the player I saw on Coney Island in 2012. He is comfortable moving gap-to-gap and going back on balls.

He made a very nice play on a ball hit directly over his head, putting his head down and running to the spot. It was reliant on read rather than speed, and that is going to be important as Nimmo has begun to slow down some. I've generally had him as a solid-average to plus runner, but the weight he has added over the years (and the fact that speed tends to peak early) has him showing fringier run times nowadays. It shows up in the lack of a true second gear on the bases (which I have seen in the past), and a lack of closing speed on balls where he really needs to get on his horse. You can be a major league center fielder and not be an absolute burner (though that doesn't hurt), but there aren't many below-average runners playing there every day in the majors. Nimmo can still play there for me, but if he loses another step, he might be better suited to left.

Now for grading purposes I consider Nimmo as a center fielder, since I'd play him there in a vacuum, but he's obviously not unseating Juan Lagares. He's played a bit of right field for Binghamton this year, but I don't love the profile there. He is accurate with his throws, but there just isn't enough raw arm strength there for a regular right fielder. He is likely an above-average defender in left. If Nimmo does end up as more of a fourth-outfielder type, however, he can handle any of the three positions as a once-a-week guy.

Glove (CF)

Current Grade: 50 (Average)

Future Grade: 45 (Fringe-average)

Arm

Current Grade: 50 (Average)

Future Grade: 50 (Average)

Run

Current Grade: 45 (Fringe-average)

Future Grade: 40 (Below-average)

The optimistic projection

55: Solid regular

I suppose this is more likely to happen if he is a center fielder, but you don't have to squint hard to see a player with enough secondary skills (walks, power) to make up for a lower batting average and some platoon issues. Maybe something akin to Seth Smith's good years.

The likely outcome

45: Fourth Outfielder/second-division starter

However, I do wonder how much Nimmo's approach plays against major league pitching, especially lefties. I think he's a guy who helps a major league ball club, and has some years where he's an everyday guy, but mixes in a few seasons where he frustrates the heck out of you.

What to look for during the rest of the 2015 season

On our minor league preview podcast, we talked about how the Binghamton assignment was a bit of a surprise. I hoped that he could hit his way to Triple-A Las Vegas quickly to put himself in position to help the 2016 team, but the knee injury that cost him a month also probably delayed any call-up to after the Double-A All-Star break. There, the Pat Misches of the world that you find in nearly every Triple-A rotation should be a good test for the revamped swing.