Taking over for Omar Minaya as general manager after the 2010 season, the mission of Sandy Alderson and his front office was to revitalize and alter the perception of a New York Mets minor league system, which seemingly had not produced enough future products to curb a losing culture. Searching far and wide to find a position player that represented better days ahead, the Mets found Nimmo. Brandon Nimmo that is. A high school outfielder taken in the first round in 2011 out of Wyoming one pick ahead Jose Fernandez at 13th overall in the draft, Nimmo seemed poised to become the face of the Mets’ future. With an unexpected run to the World Series in 2015 and the return of Yoenis Cespedes, Nimmo may no longer be the organization’s focal point with his future uncertain.
After a brief stint in the Gulf Coast League in his first professional season, Nimmo held his own as one of the youngest players in the New York-Penn League for the Brooklyn Cyclones in 2012, batting .248/.372/.406 in a league heavily regarded for its pitching. Nimmo impressed former Seattle Mariners third base coach Rich Donnelly, his manager in Brooklyn at the time, with his maturity and ability to adjust to the challenges a typical ballplayer faces in one of the most prominent minor league settings. “He is growing in this game, growing mentally and physically,” Donnelly said to the New York Post in 2012. “That’s what you have to do in this game”.
Nimmo’s growth and development continued as he posted an on-base percentage of close to .400 between Single-A Savannah and Double-A Binghamton in 2013 and 2014 while also reaching double digits in home runs for the first time in his professional career. After finishing with nearly even figures in strikeouts and walks at Single-A St. Lucie in 2014, Nimmo began to slump after his Binghamton promotion as his batting average dropped from .322 to .238 in 279 plate appearances despite a sudden power surge. Nimmo gradually rebounded the following season, batting .269 between three minor league levels with a .734 OPS, aided by a short stint in the Pacific Coast League.
With just 91 at-bats under his belt at Triple-A Las Vegas, Nimmo appeared headed for more seasoning in the PCL and an opportunity to continue his progress against stiffer competition, but a partially torn tendon in his left foot leaves him sidelined for the immediate future and forces him to begin rehabbing from injury as spring training approaches. This injury is the latest in a recent string for Nimmo, who ranks fourth on Baseball Essential’s list of top 20 Mets prospects entering the 2016 season. After suffering a wrist injury in 2013 with Savannah, Nimmo lost a month to an MCL sprain with Binghamton last season, negatively impacting both his power and speed.
Despite some recent setbacks, the Mets added Nimmo to the 40-man roster in November with the possibility of earning a promotion by season’s end if he regains his form at Las Vegas. While Nimmo seems to remain the Mets’ centerfielder of the future, the organization has continued to beef up its outfield in a pursuit of a World Series championship. Cespedes, a fan favorite and catalyst of the club’s run to the National League pennant last season, returns to Flushing after signing a three-year, $75 million dollar contract, spurning a more lucrative offer from the Washington Nationals for stability and the chance to continue playing in New York.
Although Cespedes can opt out of his newly-signed contract after just one season, the possibility remains that he may choose to stay a Met for the length of the agreement if no other team pays him close to $25 million per year or his production declines. Before signing Cespedes in late January, the Mets signed former Baltimore Orioles outfielder Alejandro De Aza as a reserve and Juan Lagares, the Opening Day centerfielder of a year ago, has four years remaining on a contract he signed last spring.
Coupled with the unexpected promotion and rookie success of Michael Conforto, the Mets suddenly have a stacked outfield not just for 2016 but also for the foreseeable future. Though Nimmo continues to show excellent selectivity at the plate and yearly improvements in other areas of his game, recent injuries and changes at the big league level make this season a vital one for him if he factors into the future plans of the organization. Entering his age 23 season, Nimmo remains one of the top young prospects in the Mets’ farm system but the challenges ahead will determine whether he can realize his promise and have a permanent home in Queens for years to come.