Brandon Nimmo – Mets 2018 Leadoff Hitter?
There are a number of areas the Mets need to address this offseason including both center field and lead-off hitter. Either one of those areas could be addressed through free agency or perhaps the trade market. However, before going down that route, the Mets should take a long look at Brandon Nimmo this season.
The 2011 first round draft pick, the first of the Sandy Alderson Era, just became the fourth rookie in Mets history to reach safely in every plate appearance. That was also the second straight game Nimmo lead off the game for the Mets with a double. Simply put, this is a player with the skills to be a Major League lead-off hitter.
So far this season, Nimmo has a .410 OBP in 62 plate appearances. Dating back to last season, Nimmo has a .369 major league OBP in 142 major league plate appearances. For sure, this is a small sample size, but Nimmo has shown the ability to get on base during his minor league career. In fact, Nimmo’s .410 OBP last year was the best in the Pacific Coast League.
As for his defense, John Sickels of Minor League Ball wrote last year, “his defensive instincts are impressive and he is a quality defender in center field.” Certainly, in the small sample we have seen of him, he has shown he has the tools to be a good center fielder. He has the speed to more than adequately play the position. His arm is strong enough to play out there.
Still, there is a some lingering doubt about the Mets faith in his ability to play there. In his 21 major league starts, Nimmo has only started four of them in center. During that time, the Mets have started Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto and Alejandro De Aza over him in center. Even if it is not determinative of how the Mets feel about his skills in center, it is certainly not a glowing review. Still, with his skill set, Nimmo should benefit from the coaching from Tom Goodwin, who has shown himself to be a good Major League outfield coach.
There’s also the matter of his ability to stay on the field. In four of the last five seasons, Nimmo has spent some time on the disabled list. He had knee surgery in 2013, which robbed him of some of his speed. In reality, this isn’t a matter of chronic issues, and the collapsed lung was a bit of a freak injury. Still, if you are concerned about that, you could platoon him with Juan Lagares.
With Lagares, the Mets have an elite defensive center fielder, who cannot hit right-handed pitching. You also have an immovable contract with him making $6.5 million in 2018 and $9 million the next. He also has some of his own injury issues missing time in consecutive seasons with injuries to the same thumb. Even with Nimmo having a platoon neutral bat, platooning the two players would serve to keep both fresh, and it would help the Mets get Lagares’ glove in the lineup.
However, it is more important to get Nimmo’s bat in the lineup and his glove in center field right now. The Mets need to find out if they need to address center field and a lead-off hitter this offseason. The Mets don’t really know if they need to look outside the organization to address those needs until they find out what they have in Nimmo. It’s time to find that out now.