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2017 Mets Season Review: Brandon Nimmo finds his niche

Sandy Alderson’s first draft pick finally carved out a major league role in 2017.

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Six years after being drafted with the 13th overall pick in 2011, Brandon Nimmo was largely an afterthought coming into 2017. His prospect pedigree was much diminished, as he had failed to develop the power you want to see from a corner bat or the defensive ability to stick in center field. If anything, Mets fans were afraid that Nimmo would be on the roster if the Mets elected to play service time games with Michael Conforto.

Instead, Nimmo pulled his hamstring while playing for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic and wound up at Triple-A. His opportunity for playing time wouldn’t come til later in the season, when injuries to Yoenis Cespedes and Conforto coupled with the trades of Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson opened up a regular spot in the outfield. Nimmo took this chance and ran with it down the stretch.

Over 215 plate appearances—roughly a month of regular playing time—Nimmo hit .260/.379/.418, good for a 117 wRC+. He added five home runs and a couple of steals and displayed the superb plate discipline that made him so popular among Mets prospect enthusiasts for the last half-decade. Among hitters with 200 PA, Nimmo swung at the fifth-lowest rate at pitches out of the strike zone, putting him in the Joey Votto level of plate discipline. Nimmo doesn’t have the elite power and barrel control that Votto does, but his knowledge of the strike zone is extremely impressive.

Nimmo’s output was boosted by a .380 BABIP, though he maintained a high line drive rate (24.4%), did a reasonably good job of avoiding weak contact, and had an almost uniform spread of batted balls across the field. Those skills should allow him to maintain a better than average BABIP, albeit not one as gaudy as the mark he posted this year. There’s also no way to sugarcoat his 51 wRC+ against lefties or his mediocre defensive performance, but Nimmo did enough to establish that he can play the long half of a platoon and not be a disaster in center field.

While the Christian Yelich comparisons are ridiculous—Yelich had three productive seasons in the majors by 24, has elite exit velocity, and can hit lefties—there’s no reason not to be enthusiastic about Nimmo. The Mets have at least one opening in their outfield next year, and that’s before considering the uncertainty around Michael Conforto’s shoulder. A cheap, productive platoon bat that can survive at all three outfield positions is very valuable, particularly if payroll decreases as much as expected. Ideally, he won’t be a starter, but there’s no reason Brandon Nimmo and his infectious smile can’t contribute 300 solid at-bats to a contending Mets team in 2018.