One of the few bright spots in this miserable, dysfunctional Mets season has been the rise of 25-year-old former first-round pick Brandon Nimmo. Nimmo, who broke out last year getting regular playing time for the first time with a 117 wRC+, has put up an even more impressive 138 wRC+ this year, which is second among all National League outfielders behind only Matt Kemp‘s 139.
Part of what made Nimmo so impressive to watch last year was his fantastic plate discipline and ability to work the count. Until last year, many scouts had been skeptical that he takes too many pitches, but he put his great eye to good use last year, with a 15.3% walk rate which helped him put up a very strong .379 OBP. The most impressive part of his game was his ability to lay off bad pitches and draw walks.
Nimmo continued this approach into the beginning of this season, and he got off to a sizzling start. In March/April, he hit .313/.488/.563 with a 14% walk rate. While the high average may have been a bit of a fluke considering the .429 BABIP, what’s notable is how he started to hit for a lot more power, with a big .250 ISO in that time span after putting up a pedestrian .158 ISO in 2017. And with the improved hitting, he was still able to keep that walk rate up, which is what he was thus far known for.
But what he did in May to follow that up is probably even more impressive. By that point he had finally convinced the Mets to give him regular playing time, he took full advantage of the opportunity, hitting .277/.406/.578, and he did it with a much more reasonable .321 BABIP. He didn’t deviate from his game, with that walk rate up at 14.9% for the month, but at the same time, he was able to build upon his newfound power stroke. He hit for an elite .301 ISO, and was suddenly showing potential as a guy who could not just get on base frequently, but hit for power at the same time. Before this breakout, he had pretty much just been seen as someone who would get on base at a good clip with respectable power at best.
In June, however, is when Nimmo started to not be himself. Instead of a walk rate in the 14-15ish range, he actually put up a below average 7.4% walk rate. And while he’s never had a great strikeout rate, he struck out an alarming 36.1% of the time in June. However, he did keep up the power with a .250 ISO. Overall for the month, he hit a still very solid .250/.333/.500. Still, Nimmo wasn’t being Nimmo. Known for his high walk rate, he wasn’t walking much, and he was striking out way too much. That is not a recipe for success in the future, to say the least.
His strikeout problems continued into July, but if there’s a silver lining, it’s that he started to walk again. From July 1 to July 15 (the last day before the All-Star break), he hit just .180/.305/.280. So the good news? He started walking again! But the other aspects of Nimmo’s game were beginning to lack. Part of the low average can be attributed to the .267 BABIP, but it’s hard to hit for a very good average when you’re striking out 32.2% of the time. And he wasn’t driving the ball like he was before, with his ISO falling to just .100 in this time frame. Still, it was good to see him walking again, and hopefully, this would soon translate into improved overall results from Nimmo.
Well, he’s had 32 plate appearances since the All-Star break, and it’s safe to say that he still has a great eye and that he still knows how to walk. He has a 19.2 walk rate since the All-Star break, but he still needs to control the strikeouts. Nimmo’s game naturally has some striking out in it, but when he was most successful in April and May, he had his strikeout rate in a much more respectable territory, in the low 20s.
Nimmo’s most recent game on Thursday emulated what Nimmo is all about. He got on base four times, walking three times and slashing a double down the line. He did strike out, however, and had a 38.5% strikeout rate in the small sample since the All-Star break prior to last night’s contest, in which he struck out three times in four at-bats. This is obviously a problem, but with the walks coming at an abundant rate again, and with his strong game yesterday, it looks like Nimmo is slowly breaking out of this slump. Even if he’s not completely right yet, Nimmo is still starting to be Nimmo again.