Mailbag: Brandon Nimmo’s Struggles and the Strides He is Taking

 

Joe emails:

Is Branon Nimmo failing as badly as it appears, or are his fledgling stats just a result of his injury?  He never played HS baseball in Wyoming, so I worry that he was very much over-rated.  It makes me very concerned about the scouting under Alderson, and if scouting is flawed I don’t see any long term hope.  I am a very optimistic guy, so I want to believe.

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Second question first. No, Nimmo, the Mets first round pick in 2011, is not “failing as badly as it appears.” He’s a 20-year-old player going through growing pains in his first full professional season. But yeah, everything matters and Nimmo has had a poor last month, with as Brian points out, way too many strikeouts.

First, lets put Nimmo’s performance in context.

Nimmo is hitting .264/.369/.357 with 8 doubles, five triples and one homerun to go with 32 walks against 78 strikeouts in 60 games in a great pitcher’s park at age 20.
The South Atlantic League averages .252/.328/.374. So, Nimmo is above average overall in batting average and on-base percentage, but his isolated slugging percentage (.097) is below league average (.122).

Nimmo has hit better on the road, .307/.392/.439 with 10 extra-base hits in 30 games and .221/.348/.274 with four extra-base hits in 30 games at home. Removed from the massive dimensions of Historic Grayson Stadium, particularly to right-center, Nimmo’s isolated slugging percentage is .132, or a touch above league average.

A few more notes.

Nimmo has hit .283/.394/.394 in 180 AB vs. RHP and .191/.269/.213 with one double in 47 AB versus lefties. Lefties cause him problems. He knows this. To the Mets’ and Savannah manager Luis Rojas’ credit, Nimmo has played against nearly every lefty the Gnats have seen.

In his first 23 games of the year, Nimmo  hit .322/.421/.433 in 23 games in April which included a 1-for-27 skid after he suffered a bruised hand in Lakewood. Nimmo spent the next month on the disabled list with that hand bruise and then a strained glute. In the 37 games since his return, he has hit .226/.335/.307 in 37 games with 20 walks and 54 strikeouts and nine extra-base hits. That’s a 33% strikeout percentage, which is alarming.

I had never seen the April version of Nimmo before, either in the GCL or Brooklyn. His hand path was cleaner, and he was barreling the ball hard two or three times a game. He was working to left-center and right-center mostly with authority.

When he returned, it was fairly clear that Nimmo did not trust his hands and was compensating in other areas of his swing. He has admitted as much. Scouts and coaches noticed. Also, since his return, perhaps as a compensation mechanism, he has started landed more closed with his front stride foot. When his right foot lands too much closer to home plate than his back foot, it prevents his hips from clearing through the swing, and affects his hand path.

Rojas explained the mechanics in a little more detail, “He’s been working a lot with [Gnats Hitting Coach] Joel [Fuentes] lately. They’re working more on his direction than any other thing. He’s sometimes striding back to almost the shortstop. That’s kinda like locking up his hands. He can’t free his hands through the zone. They’re working a lot on his direction – striding back to the pitcher, so he can have more freedom with his hips and his hands, he can extend through the zone better. He’ll be ok. He’s easy to coach. He had a couple of good swings in Greenville [over the weekend].

“Hitting from the left side, [if] you stride back toward the pitcher, or slightly to the second baseman, you’re still in a pretty good direction to let your hips go through the zone and let your hands go through the zone and have a good follow through. That’s what they’re working with him right now.”

In the last month, pitchers have been able to beat Nimmo in, which has helped push his strikeout rate up.

So, what’s the conclusion? Nimmo has had a bad month after a hand injury, which was a new experience for him. He’s working on making a mechanical adjustment. There’s no reason for panic, yet. He still has a chance to be a very nice, high-OBP MLB centerfielder.

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