I am a die-hard Mets fan. Most of the time, when people ask me which team I root for, I respond with the following: “The Mets, unfortunately.” And when I introduce myself, here’s how it usually goes: “I’m Max. I’m from New York, but I’m not a Yankees fans.” That usually gets me some sympathy points with anybody who knows anything about baseball.
This season has been no different than most. Entering the season, the Mets were expected to at least compete for the National League East title and they did not do that, to say the least (though they did exceed their win total from last year!). I could go without the constant disappointment, but I still love the Mets, and a lot of my love for them, at least this season, has to do with the criminally underrated Brandon Nimmo.
There are plenty of reasons Nimmo isn’t getting a lot of attention. He is one of just fifteen MLB players from the state of Wyoming (that’s fifteen ever, not just active), so not a lot of people can call him their “hometown hero.” He didn’t play baseball for his high school, namely because Wyoming does not offer high school baseball, so scouts only saw him on the travel baseball circuit. The Mets picked Nimmo with the 13th overall pick in the 2011 draft but the buzz surrounding the then-eighteen-year-old was limited, if not nonexistent.
During his time in the minor leagues prior to his 2016 call-up, Nimmo demonstrated excellent plate discipline and average skills elsewhere. His defense was adequate, he hit league-average or slightly better at nearly every stop in the minors, and stole a few bags and knocked a few dingers. Nothing spectacular, but he was very solid. Unfortunately for Nimmo, very solid doesn’t generate much buzz in prospect circles. It didn’t help his cause that he didn’t have any outstanding tools (outside of his 80-grade smile, of course).
In 2016, Nimmo was recalled and triple-slashed .274/.338/.329 with one homer and no steals in 32 games. Not great for a former first-round pick.
He righted the ship a bit in 2017 by triple-slashing .260/.379/.418 with five long balls and two steals in 69 games, but still not much progress. It was looking like Nimmo was going to be yet another Mets prospect to bust, but then they decided to unleash him in 2018 and he took full advantage of the opportunity.
Nimmo entered the 2018 season as a bench outfielder, but the Mets, unsurprisingly, got injured, thrusting him into a starting role. Once he became an everyday starter, he simply started raking. In addition to his respectable plate discipline (his BB/K of .56 ranks 44th of 144 qualified players), he has simply crushed the ball to the tune of .260/.399/.482. Since becoming a starter, that slash-line looks even better: .261/.394/.488.
He also has an incredible knack for getting hit by pitches; his 22 HBP leads the major leagues (Anthony Rizzo is second with 20). His 147 wRC+ is seventh in the all of baseball, which is surprising considering that he has just 17 homers and is decidedly middle-of-the-pack in exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and other similar metrics that do a good job of predicting success in the batter’s box.
The best part of all of this, for the Mets, is that it seems they have made something out of nothing. After entering the season as a fourth outfielder at best, Nimmo has transformed himself into an above-average everyday starter. He doesn’t necessarily deserve to be in the MVP conversation (again though, his smile is easily the best in the majors… I mean, just look at this video), but he has quietly been one of the better outfielders in the National League. And if hard numbers aren’t your thing, he also plays the game like everyone should: he sprints to first after a walk or HBP, always hustles no matter what, and just loves the game. In a time where the popularity of baseball is dwindling, the energy that Brandon Nimmo brings to the game is a more-than-welcome change of pace.