The Mets’ outfield has two types of players: corner outfielders who can hit, and true center fielders who can’t. This may be simplifying things a little, but it is more or less true. Brandon Nimmo falls into the former category, but is hoping to find a middle ground between the two.
Brandon Nimmo seems most likely to get the majority of the starts at center field in 2019. Defensively, Nimmo appears to be a reasonably strong corner outfielder, but a slightly below average in center. This would be less troubling if he had a strong defender in left field, but with first time outfielder Jeff McNeil penciled in there, it is pretty unclear just how much additional ground Nimmo will have to cover to his right. With another not-quite center fielder in Michael Conforto to his left, Nimmo should be able to shade left-center most of the time.
If Todd Frazier and/or Jed Lowrie do not start the season on the field (as of this writing, neither has played a single inning of spring training), Nimmo will likely start the season in a corner, with either Juan Lagares or Keon Broxton getting the bulk of the starts. If this is the case, the Mets’ outfield defense would likely be better than anticipated, but their offense would likely suffer.
Regardless of where he’s playing, the Mets will be relying on Nimmo’s bat at the top of the lineup. Nimmo’s excellent control of the strike zone and plate discipline (20.8% O-swing rate) led to a .404 on-base percentage in 2018, aided in part by his club-record 22 hit by pitches. That, coupled with a power surge that saw him hit 17 home runs with a .219 ISO, led to Nimmo having a terrific offensive season, good for a 150 OPS+ and a 149 wRC+.
Even with a little regression built in, a solid season from Nimmo, even with slightly sub-par defense in the outfield, would lock in an important piece of their 2019 offense. With veteran additions like Wilson Ramos and Robinson Cano, it is important that the Mets held onto Nimmo, who has the ability to be a productive member of the team long after their new additions have retired.