Brandon Nimmo Is Using The Whole Field This Year | Astromets Mind

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Brandon Nimmo Is Using The Whole Field This Year

Will the Mets get help next year from these two? Image from 2011.

The Mets had top-prospect Brandon Nimmo change his batting stance coming into this season so he would have a better chance to pull the inside pitch, and that is exactly what’s happened so far.

            When the 2014 season finished, Mets GM Sandy Alderson hinted that Brandon Nimmo could start 2015 in Las Vegas, “depending on what our needs are,” but obviously he went back to Binghamton instead. While he didn’t overwhelm AA last year – his .238/.339/.396 was good for a 107 wRC+ – that slash line would look shinier with something more than the .283 BABIP he put up. Still, the Mets had at least a pair of good reasons for sending him back to AA to start the season that were not performance related: he spent all offseason and spring training retooling his swing and stance, and one of the coaches he worked most closely with is the B-Mets hitting coach (Luis Natera); also, the PCL is a high scoring environment that would inflate Nimmo’s stats, and Mets fans would be blue and orange in the face from calling for his promotion by now had he started there, which was not hard to foresee considering the Mets outfield situation. Nimmo did a great job of spraying the ball between left and center field last year, but he rarely pulled the ball in the air, so the Mets had him retool his swing to become more of a complete hitter. As you’ll see, the work has helped him use the whole field more, but he isn’t hitting for much power so far this year.
             Since Nimmo missed a little time with a knee injury this year, he’s just recently passed his PA total from 2014 with the B-Mets, so this is a good time to compare his rate stats and spray charts, which I have done in Table 1 and Figure 1 below.

Table 1 – Comparing Nimmo’s AA stats the past two seasons

2014 vs. L
2015 vs. L
2014 vs. R
2015 vs. R
2014 Totals
2015 Totals

Figure 1 – Comparing Nimmo’s AA spray charts the past two seasons, charts from MLBFarm

            As you can see, other than a BABIP jump against lefties, Nimmo’s rate stats have taken a step back this year. But while he rarely pulled balls in the air last year, he’s been doing it with much more frequency this year – statcorner has him up to a 56% pulled flyball rate this year, after only 36% last year. He obviously put up better power numbers last year, but his approach led to a lot of fly ball outs to left and center field. This year he’s hitting more line drives than fly balls, which has led to a lot of singles pulled into RF (and a few doubles down the RF line) and more BABIP than ISO. The approach has also led to a higher rate of groundouts pulled to the right side, and he’s seen a small bump in pop up rate early.
            The decreased power outage thus far is concerning, but we’re talking about the first half of a season using a new swing/stance/approach, and while the mechanical adjustments may be natural by now, the mental adjustments are constant. Nimmo was comfortable hitting everything oppo taco last year, so he could just crush anything left over the middle to left and center field. He’s trying to do more this year, so those same pitches might be pulled instead. It’s no guarantee, but as he gets more experience with this approach, he may be comfortable smacking those pitches to LF again. Also, we don’t know what the Mets are telling Nimmo to work on, and they could just be telling him to pull those pitches for now.
            In addition to the power drop, Nimmo has seen his walk rate decrease considerably this season, although his May stats skew the totals some – he had a 4.3 BB% in May. He’s still comfortable taking pitches and shows a good eye, but he’s looking to use the inside half more, so he’s been swinging more. His walk rate is still slightly above average for now, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
            Moving forward, it’s still possible Nimmo see’s Las Vegas (I’d be surprised if he didn’t) or even Queens (if injuries get real bad) this year, but he still has some work to do before he becomes a major league regular. One knock scouts have always had for Nimmo is that he appears to lack a plan at the plate – for example, this eyewitness account calls him ‘overly passive’ – so will his new ability to use the whole field can help him overcome that label? While he is using the whole field more this year, I don’t think he’s found the right balance of when to pull or go opposite field just yet, which is why we haven’t seen much power. The Mets had him change his approach so that he’d be able to tap into his power to all fields, so will his power start to show again? There might be more questions surrounding Nimmo now than when the season started, but he’s still a 22-year old in AA with interesting tools, and he’s still worthy of a Top-3 prospect spot in the Mets system.

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