In December of 2022, the Mets signed Brandon Nimmo to an eight-year, $162 million deal that ensured he would likely be a Met for most if not all of his career. If there were any concerns about this commitment to the Mets’ 2011 first-round draft pick, they were likely related to durability. In his walk year in 2022, Nimmo played over 100 games in a season for just the second time in his career and put up his most valuable season, taking the first step to shed the dreaded “injury prone” label. But could he do it again?
The answer, as it turns out, is a resounding yes. In a season that was a massive disappointment for most of the team, including many of the Mets’ other recent high-profile signings, Brandon Nimmo quietly demonstrated why the Mets were right to lock him up long-term. The only injury of note that Nimmo suffered in 2023 was a sprained AC joint in the final week of the season, which cut his season short by a few days. But it was something that Nimmo said that he probably would have tried to play through in the middle of the season or during a playoff race.
When it comes to his batting line, Nimmo’s 2023 was almost a carbon copy of his walk year; he hit .274/.367/.433 with a 133 wRC+ in 2022 and hit .274/.363/.466 with a 130 wRC+ in 2023 in 151 games and 152 games, respectively. He set career highs for both home runs (24) and runs batted in (68) in 2023, which did correspond with a drop in runs scored (89) from his high water mark of 102 in 2022, but that probably says more about the rest of the Mets lineup this season than it does about Nimmo.
Nimmo’s power surge wasn’t gradual, nor was it an accident. In early June, he hit a grand slam against Spencer Strider in Atlanta and his home run totals increased sharply after that. During the offseason last winter, Nimmo spent time specifically working on hitting for more power. “We felt there was some fat in the swing that could be trimmed out,” Nimmo said in a piece in The Athletic about modifying his approach. “There’s blast metrics that I’m really good at and should produce home runs if hit at the right launch angle. So just trying to maximize that and make it as efficient as possible — while changing the perspective that I’d always had of putting the ball in play.” This philosophical shift was a microcosm of a larger sea change on the part of the Mets’ approach to hitting as a team with a greater emphasis being placed on hard contact.
But the Mets did not want this to come at the expense of the other qualities at the plate that make Nimmo, well, Nimmo. In 2023, Nimmo continued to demonstrate those qualities that make him an effective leadoff hitter for the Mets. He is an extremely selective hitter; his chase rate this season was in the 91st percentile in the majors and his walk rate was in the 80th percentile, according to Statcast. But when he does see his pitch, he capitalizes, also putting up strong numbers in hard hit rate, average exit velocity, and barrel percentage. All of that translates to Nimmo’s patented on-base ability that makes him such a consistent presence at the top of the lineup for the Mets.
Nimmo has also worked very hard to turn himself into an asset defensively in center field and that continued in 2023 when he put up an above average OAA yet again. But it wasn’t quite the eye-popping number that he achieved the season before. Though Nimmo’s range in center field is excellent, his throwing arm is below average, which is the main factor that holds him back from being an elite center fielder. Nonetheless, Nimmo’s ascension from liability to asset in center field likely played a major role in the Mets’ decision to commit to him at the position long-term.
The only other flaw in Brandon Nimmo’s otherwise well-rounded game is his base running. Despite being one of the faster players on the team in terms of sprint speed (which buoys him defensively), he is a poor base stealer. With the bigger bases and new rules resulting in higher stolen base numbers across the league, it is stark that a player as fast as Nimmo had just three stolen bases in 2023, which is the same total as 2022 before the new rules were in place. Notably, all three of his stolen bases this season came in April. It seemed early on as if Nimmo had turned over a new leaf as a base stealer, but then he suddenly just...stopped running. In spring training and early in the season, Nimmo got banged up a couple of times on the base paths attempting to steal and on May 4, he made the final out of a game against the Tigers trying to steal second with the Mets down two runs. After that, it was curtains for his base stealing rebrand.
“I am just not good at stealing bases,” Nimmo said after a particularly rough game for him in August. “It’s either instinctive or bad luck, I have no clue. But when I go, the throw is on the base and I am toast most of the time.”
This bears itself out in the numbers; Nimmo was in the 21st percentile in base-running value in 2023, according to Statcast. So one thing the Mets aren’t going to get out of Nimmo is a heap of stolen bases. But, as long as he stays healthy, which he did for the second year in a row in 2023, they will get nearly everything else—solid defense in center field, excellent on-base ability out of the leadoff spot, and a little bit of pop to boot.
“I think I made a lot of strides offensively, and I think I learned a lot of things that I’m going to take into next year,” Nimmo said at the end of the season. “Things didn’t work out the way we wanted obviously team-wise, but I’m very, very proud of the strides I made personally.”
Those strides certainly didn’t go unnoticed and hopefully Nimmo will continue to be a cornerstone for the Mets in 2024 and beyond.