The situation: Michael Conforto has hit .119/.182/.237 in June. He hit .169/.242/.349 in May. He has a wrist issue that required a cortisone injection recently. Meanwhile, the Mets are just three games back of the Nationals despite hitting .231/.303/.392 as a team over the past thirty days. Something had to give eventually, and the Mets swapped one first-round outfield pick for another, calling up the 2011 13th-overall selection, Brandon Nimmo.
The background: Nimmo was taken one pick in front of Jose Fernandez in that 2011 draft class (in case you hadn't heard), and was expected to develop into a five-tool center fielder. The reality has been a bit of a disappointment. He never developed the over-the-fence power expected, and as he's filled out (and suffered a myriad of lower-body injuries) he's lost some range and athleticism in center. Nimmo's “broken out” in the Pacific Coast League this year. After a slow start, he's hitting .328/.409/.508 for the season, without the noticeable platoon split that plagued him in every other minor league season. Is this for real, or just a desert mirage? Well…
Scouting Report: Nimmo entered the season as our no. 6 Mets prospect, mostly due to the fact that he was close to the majors and offered a broad base of offensive (against right-handed pitching at least) and defensive skills. He has tweaked his swing for the second consecutive offseason, and now sits much lower in his stance than he did previously. The performance on the field has improved, but sussing out a real mechanical improvement from “It's the PCL Pacific Southern Division, you guys” can be tricky. But even if the offensive performance is mostly a desert mirage, Nimmo can hit right-handed pitching well enough, while drawing walks and hitting for enough power, to be a viable platoon outfielder, even in a corner. And he may well be limited to left field nowadays. I have always liked him as in center, but he has added a lot of good weight over the years and had a litany of lower body injuries, including a sprained ACL and a torn muscle in his foot over just the last fourteen months. He's gone from a plus runner in Brooklyn to a below-average runner in the upper minors. His instincts and routes in the outfield have improved a lot, but he may not have the closing speed anymore to be a major-league center fielder. The arm is only average, maybe a tick above, and would be stretched in right field.[i]
Nimmo has struggled against left-handed pitching throughout his professional career. He doesn't seem to see the ball great from same-side arms and struggles especially with spin running away from him. The numbers against left-handed pitching look better in a small 2016 sample, but he should be protected against major-league lefties by Juan Lagares once the latter is healthy. There is also some general risk in Nimmo's offensive profile. His approach is patient to the point of passive, and better major-league arms will be able to attack him even in hitter's counts, unafraid of his ability to drive the ball against them, unless he proves otherwise. Nimmo would flash solid-average raw to the pull side in batting practice even last year, but that just doesn't show up in games. He still projects as a second-division-starter or good fourth outfielder, and given the Mets current options, and Conforto's issues, this is a reasonable roll of the dice.
Immediate Big League Future: Nimmo will slot into left field against right-handed pitching for the Mets,[ii] and perhaps get the occasional game in center as well. He has the skillset to hit at the top of a major-league lineup, but the Mets are very conservative with prospect bats, and I'd expect him to hit seventh for a while. He can give you an OBP-heavy .750 OPS and solid defense in a corner, but you will want to be aggressive pinch-hitting for him against the LOOGys of the world with…uh…Matt Reynolds, I guess. The medium-term is more interesting. The Mets don't seem to think Conforto will be down in the minors long, and if he is healthy he should mash in Las Vegas. If Nimmo is able to steady the lineup a bit, the Mets may be faced with a tough decision in a couple of weeks. —Jeffrey Paternostro
Fantasy Take: Brandon Nimmo won’t save your fantasy team’s season. Despite being six-foot-three, he doesn’t have much home run power. He doesn’t offer much stolen base potential, either. He has only ten steals but has been caught stealing thirteen times since the start of the 2015 season.
The main attributes that Nimmo brings to the Mets are his better-than-average strikeout rate and his above-average walk rate. That’s what he can provide for your fantasy team, too. At Triple-A Las Vegas, he was hitting a robust .328/.409/.508, although that line flatters since both Las Vegas and the PCL are great places to hit. Still, if you’re struggling in batting average, Nimmo could help, or at least replace a player in your lineup who has been dragging your average down. In OBP leagues, Nimmo is a more attractive proposition than he is in batting average leagues. His walk rate might not end up as high as a strict translation would imply, though, since his lack of home run power could encourage MLB pitchers to challenge him in the zone rather than nibble around the edges and risk a free pass.
Michael Conforto’s struggles and subsequent demotion left the vacancy in the Mets’ outfield that Nimmo is filling. Given the depth of those struggles and the fact that Conforto has also been battling knee and wrist issues for the past few weeks, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be back in the majors any time soon. Nimmo should play nearly every day, although once Juan Lagares returns from the DL, the tall Wyomingite will probably end up on the bench against most lefties. That could actually help his fantasy owners, since his minor league splits and scouting reports suggest that he won’t hit lefties well at the major league level any time soon. Platooning with Lagares will protect his batting average and on-base percentage with minimal impact on his counting stats since he probably wasn’t going to do much against left-handed pitching anyway. —Scooter Hotz
[ii]Or back up Alejandro de Aza, based on tonight's lineup?
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