Long considered a questionable pick at best, Brandon Nimmo, the very first draftee of the Sandy Alderson era, is in the midst of a legitimate breakout. He's getting on base more than Joey Votto and slugging higher than Bryce Harper. He has been the team's best position player despite spotty playing time, and leads the league in Smiles Above Replacement. Can he keep it going?
Nimmo's best tool is without question his eye at the plate. He makes selectivity an art form, and his 17.4 percent walk rate would rank sixth in baseball if he qualified. He swings at only 20 percent of the pitches he sees out of the zone, and rarely whiffs. These are skills he has consistently displayed not only since his 2016 debut, but throughout his professional career. They are real and they are sustainable.
One number that might or might not be so sustainable is his .393 batting average on balls in play -- a full 100 points above league average and a top 10 mark in baseball among players with at least 100 at bats. A BABIP this high is often seen as a sign of imminent regression to the mean, but there's good reason to think Nimmo's mean is significantly higher than average.
In over 400 major league plate appearances, he has a career .369 BABIP, just a tick higher than the .356 mark he maintained in his minor league career, which spanned 2,507 plate appearances.
What makes it possible for Nimmo to see so many batted balls fall in for hits? He is certainly faster than average, which makes a big difference. But more than that, he makes solid contact. He doesn't make great contact because he has a perfect swing or exceptional strength, but because he sees pitches as well as anyone in the game.
Alderson has long said the organization's hitting philosophy is not about patience with the goal of drawing a walk, but about patience with the goal of finding your pitch to hit. Nimmo, whether by nature, by coaching, or both, is the epitome of that approach.
A high BABIP will be essential to Nimmo's success because he does have a higher than average strikeout rate to contend with. So far, his 23.9 strikeout rate is his best season so far, but it's fair to expect him to end up closer to his 26 percent career mark. Combined with some reasonable regression to his BABIP, a .294 average is probably going to look closer to .260 to .270 over a full season. But combined with elite walk totals, he's a shoo-in for any lineup in the league.
But is he a shoo-in for the Mets lineup once Yoenis Cespedes returns? The answer has to be a resounding yes.
This is a team that desperately needs runs and Nimmo is simply their best player right now at creating those runs. Jay Bruce is still struggling and Cespedes needs regular rest to stay fresh, so there is simply no excuse not to play Nimmo close to every day. There may be an argument for sitting Nimmo against left-handed pitchers, against whom he has a career .551 OPS, but he is showing signs of overcoming that weakness as well. And getting those reps will only help him become more well-rounded at the plate.
The simple fact is that Nimmo's talent is real and the Mets need it. He may not be the top 10 OPS superstar he looks like right now, but he is an everyday player and the Mets need to play him like one. His unique profile and skill set have been underappreciated his entire career, but now that he's showing what he can do, he's here to stay.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring