St. Lucie Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo is in the midst of his best season as a professional, leading the advanced Single-A Florida State League in a number of offensive categories.
Despite being just 21-years-old, it seems the Mets’ top pick from the 2011 draft is mature beyond his years, on and off the field. Thanks to a tremendous work ethic and dedication, including adding a great amount of muscle this offseason, Nimmo has been able sustain his wonderful play on a daily basis and should have the strength to participate at a high level throughout the long minor league campaign.
Part of the reason for his success can also be attributed to his approach at the plate, which, not so coincidentally, is a spot-on match for the Mets organizational philosophy. In this Q&A, Nimmo discusses how adding muscle has helped his play, his great start and hitting approach:
Robert Brender: The Florida State League isn’t known as being much of a hitter’s league but you’re a lot of success there.
Brandon Nimmo: Yeah, it’s been good. There are nice ballpark here and nice fields and nice facilities. That makes it easier to handle. But they are big ballparks and you have to respect them and know that each one is different and how the ball flies but it’s been very nice. Its very comfortable playing in these outfields.
Brender: It was well documented that you added a lot of muscle mass in the offseason. Now that you’re about 1/3 of the way through the season, do you feel the size has allowed you to feel fresh and impacted your game?
Nimmo: Yeah, there’s no doubt about it. Being stronger and getting more flexible has definitely helped out this season. It was a very beneficial offseason for me. I’ve been trying to keep it going and stay strong as best I can this season and maintain it. There’s no doubt that its helped me out. Being stronger never really hurts anything as long as you keep flexibility. Its helped in a lot of areas but maybe having confidence, and that’s one of the biggest keys to the game, having confidence when you go up to the plate and walking on the field. Its definitely helped in that area, knowing that I can drive the ball to all fields now and not have to worry about anything.
Brender: You’ve had success driving the ball for extra base hits this season but are you still working on trying to hit the ball out of the park a little more?
Nimmo: Still working, still working. Definitely not settling. Its been nice so far and I’m definitely driving the ball a little bit more and having some fun with that, with getting to run around the bases a lot but there’s still plenty of work to be done. I feel like I’m just tapping into what I could get out of the power. I feel like there’s maybe a little bit more the other way I can maybe get into. I’m really trying to work hard to get into those oppo (opposite field) homeruns a little bit. I feel like the more I know my swing and get comfortable I get with it, the more consistent I can be. I should see a little more consistency in the whole game overall, the power included.
Brender: You have an incredible on-base percentage to this point in the season. How do you get on base this often?
Nimmo: For me, it’s not like I’m doing anything a whole lot different than how I grew up. The Mets’ philosophy, and it was mine coming in, is just controlled aggression, looking for your pitches to hit and trying to just not miss them. When you do get into those two-strike counts, you battle up and do the best you can with it. I can’t say there’s one trick that will get you to get on base a ton. I’ve just been trying to get my pitches to hit. It’s not like I go up there looking for walks, it’s a byproduct of the approach. Kudos to the Mets for instilling that in me and helping me out, finding that approach. I’m very happy with that progress so far and I still think I can even get better at that, too.
Brender: We’re getting near the single-A All-Star break. How eager are you to make the jump to double-A?
Nimmo: Yeah, obviously the reason that we are playing this game is to make it to the big leagues and in order to make it to the big leagues you have to advance one level at a time. So, obviously I would love to be in double-A but that’s out of my control. I don’t know what double-A is like. There are a lot of people telling me (about it) who do know what it’s like in the front office. I’ll just trust they know whether I’m ready or not. For me, I’ll just keep my head down, keep grinding, keep working and keep trying to do the very best that I can down here. That’s all that I can control, keep trying to get better each-and-every day. The other stuff is out of my control and I try not to worry about it at all.
Brender: You had an issue with your ankle playing the outfield. What happened and were you concerned about it?
Nimmo: There was a sharply hit ball into right-center. The guy was going to go for a double and I was just looking to reverse-pivot and try to throw him out at second. I went to plant with my left foot, the grass was pretty soft and my cleat starting sliding for about two feet and then it finally caught and I went over the top of it. When I planted on it again it kind-of had pain in it so it scared me a little bit. Once the pain went away it felt like it was fine and I did a couple of sprints after that but obviously my manager didn’t want to take the risk. We went to the doctor the next day and made sure nothing structurally was wrong and I was cleared to go the next day. It happens when you play, hopefully 140 games or 142 games. It’s going to happen over the course of the year. You’re going to have little tweaks. Thank god this one wasn’t too series and I was back out there the next day and it feels fine.
Brender: How much do the Mets push their hitting philosophy on you and the other Minor League players? Also, with the Mets firing their hitting coach, I’m curious how important working with a hitting coach regularly is for you?
Nimmo: Right when I stepped into the Mets program back in 2011 it was preached to us. We went to instructs (instructional league) which there it was preached every single day and they could control the circumstances we were put in. Those circumstances were to use their philosophy in game situations. Its been implemented since day one for me. Its implemented in Spring Training and throughout the season we definitely have meeting over it. If we get away from it we’ll have some emergency meetings to get back on track. So, it’s definitely a huge part of the hitting game for us as an organization. The hitting coaches, yeah, we work with them every day. I work with Joel Fuentes, my hitting coach down here in St. Lucie, every day. I have a certain routine that I do every day and he knows it. He can give positive feedback and let me know what’s going on with my swing. That’s his job, to get as familiar with our swings as we are and then also to let us know when we’re getting off of the plan. You definitely get preached to every day, you work on it every day and always try to get better at it.