4. Brandon Nimmo, OF
Height: 6'3", Weight: 206 lbs
Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft
2015: Double-A Binghamton: 302 PA, .279/.354/.368, 8.6% walk rate, 18.2% strikeout rate; Triple-A Las Vegas: 112 PA, .264/.393/.418, 16.1% walk rate, 17.9% strikeout rate
I suspect many Mets fans have developed prospect fatigue when it comes to Brandon Nimmo. He's been in the system for seemingly forever, and we've seen the ceiling come down from a potential impact major leaguer to possibly a major league regular if you squint hard enough. And there still is a potential regular here, though some things still need to fall into place for that to happen.
It's interesting to go back and read Alex Nelson's report from when the Mets drafted Nimmo. He was basically drafted based on his athleticism and presumed upside due to his rawness from growing up in Wyoming, a state without high-school baseball. It's ironic then that what the Mets ended up getting was a hitter whose calling card is an advanced approach at the plate that seems to have been with him since day one in the organization.
The athleticism that he had as an amateur has predictably dwindled somewhat. He's still able to play center, but his speed has eroded from above average in Alex's report to average in 2015. His reads and routes in center are also average, so if he loses any more speed, he will have to move to a corner. And given his history of knee injuries, including one that sidelined him in 2015, it seems likely a corner will end up being his long-term home.
If he is to move to a corner, the bat is going to have to play up from its current level. When Nimmo was drafted, it was noted that his swing was going to take some work. Since then he's made several tweaks, most recently last offseason, and is now talking about making more changes this offseason. The results of his swing change last year were not great. He struggled in his return to Double-A, particularly in the power department, where he hit the second of his two homers on April 14 and then didn't homer again in the rest of his 276 plate appearances there. Things seemed to turn around a bit after he was promoted to Triple-A, as he hit for more power and got back to his walking ways with 18 walks in 112 plate appearances. Of course, we have to take those numbers with a grain of salt because it's Vegas and the Pacific Coast League, but it was still encouraging to see him have some success at the highest level of the minors after muddling through much of the season.
Any scouting report you read on Nimmo these days will praise him for his ability to get into hitter's counts but then scold him for being too passive in those counts. I can't say I disagree with those assessments. When you watch Nimmo's at-bats he's consistently ahead in counts but will inevitably watch a couple pitches go by until he has two strikes. He'll then frequently put a defensive swing on a pitch that leads to weak contact. Nimmo's not afraid to go to two strikes, but I think he lacks the elite bat speed he would need to do damage on those two-strike swings. What you would like to see, and I think it can be done, is for him to get more aggressive ahead in the count and stop being too selective. It could end up being the difference between becoming the next Josh Satin or a competent major leaguer.
I remain optimistic on the near-term projection for Nimmo. He can still handle center field for the time being, he knows how to take a walk, and he has some latent raw power that can potentially be tapped into. Nimmo will begin the season back in Las Vegas where he will once again be working with a new swing. It wouldn't surprise me if he ends up being one of the first names called upon should an injury pop up in the outfield in 2016.