CECILIANI VS. NIMMO: Who's Better?  Tom Brennan

I like results, and don't necessarily follow the herd.  We've gotten to see Darrell Ceciliani this year in Queens. Certainly not lights out, but not terrible, and especially when one considers how few games he had played at the AAA level..

Brandon Nimmo has the first round pedigree and has done pretty well so far in a brief stint in AAA. Prospect ranking folks usually include Nimmo, never include Ceciliani, so Nimmo has to be the better long term prospect, right?

Well, not so fast.  I know Darrell is already 25, but he's had seasons truncated by leg injuries, which slowed his development.  But his excellence in AAA (where I know stats are to be completely discarded as meaningless) this season has been undeniable.

Darrell Ceciliani was a 4th round pick having just turned 19 in 2009. He had a 2010 season in Brooklyn far better than any of this year's guys.  In 2011 and 2012, due to injuries, he played the equivalent of about one full season. His 23 game 2012 season in St Lucie was very strong - but very short.

He then spent 2 years in AA in 2013 and 2014, putting up solid but far from spectacular results. Had he plateaued, or had the injuries kept us from seeing the true Ceciliani after 2010?

Seems the latter.  He started 2015 in Vegas very impressively, and with the Mets desperate for answers to their offensive woes, called Darrell up in late May after less than 40 AAA games, hitting .336.

Was it a hot streak?  Well, through Friday, he was hitting over .400 in 16 games. Seems more like his talent is blossoming this year. After 57 AAA games, he is hitting a spectacular .356/.405/.611.

At 6'1", 220, he has the size to up his power game, and that is also occurring in 2015. And he has a true gift of speed, having stolen 18 of 22 in 2015 and about 75% in his career.

I see Darrell as having the potential to be an excellent 3rd or 4th outfielder in the majors.

Brandon Nimmo is having a solid season, sort of on the par with what Ceciliani produced in 2013 and 2014.  He has reduced his strikeouts and walks a lot, with 41 BBs and 65 Ks in 88 games.  However, he has stolen just 4 of 8, so he does not have Darrell's wheels.  He only has 3 homers in approximately 380 PAs, which is clearly and objectively low. In fact, he only has a quite subpar 21 extra base hits this year.

In fairness to Nimmo, he takes seriously learning to work the count, which leads to a high number of walks and a career .382 on base %. But his career slugging % is just .390. By comparison, the slugging % of Matt Reynolds, not renowned for his power, is .397, and Darrell's is an up-trending .421.

Brandon is 3 years younger than Darrell, so he has time to improve.  Just as I made the case recently when comparing Conforto and the two years younger Dominic Smith.

But Nimmo’s numbers to date cry do not cry out to me that he is a star starting major league outfielder in the making.  More like a 3rd or 4th outfielder - eventually.

We'll see, but as of right now, I'd say that long term, it is too soon to say who will be the better of the two.  The pundits would likely say Nimmo.  I'm calling it a draw, and thinking that time will tell.

What do you think, folks?


Mack Ade said...

Thomas -

Just an opinion here...

Nimmo hands down... but I still feel his ceiling might (I said might) be as a 4th outfielder

Dallas said...

I would have rather traded both of them instead of Fulmer.

Neither of them did particularly well in AA
Ceciliani - OPS of .719
Nimmo - OPS of .728

I just can't buy into any numbers at Vegas unless its a pitcher doing well. If you are a batter not doing well in Vegas (sorry if Reynolds OPS is .736 in Vegas he should be no where close to the MLB club), well that just looks really bad. Nimmo at least did it at a younger age so you hope for more growth. Guys like Herrera and Conforto who actually tore it up in AA I have a lot more hope for.

Its hard to get excited about 4th outfielders/bench players when the ones we have seen come up have been so bad. I guess you hope for another Lagares who can have some value but is not a star though he did have flashes of it last year.

Unknown said...

Tom - I love your articles and your analysis, but there is one stat I think you need to pay more attention to:

BABIP - batting average on balls in play

To me, it is the most telling stat on what is true talent and was is a hot streak and luck. Last winter when Mack ranked Cecchini fairly low, I objected and predicted a break out because of Cecchini's criminally low BABIP prior to this year - and, as his BABIP has normalized, he is producing insane numbers.

For a barometer - the MLB average for BABIP is somewhere around .300 -- some people argue this is random and luck, I disagree to a point - if a batter hits 100%% line drives, more will be hits - so I would expect good hitters to be above the .300 BABIP average - which makes sense, half the league has to be over the average! Case in point close to home - David Wright's career BABIP in .339 - you would expect him to be well above average. And, for comparison further down this post, Wright's minor league BABIP is nearly identical to his MLB number - .337

Now, a so-so player can have a great season based on flukely luck where there BABIP is .350 or so and they look fantastic. This, however, is generally not sustainable.

So, how does this relate to this article:

Ceciliani's 2015 AAA BABIP - .413

Nimmo's 2015 AAA BABIP - .302

So, given that Ceciliani's BABIP is 100 points higher than Nimmo's while their batting average is only 70 points apart - there is a very solid argument to be made, based on this stat alone that Nimmo is a better hitter.

Plus, factor in that the gap between Nimmo's BABIP and batting average is only 27 points and Ceciliani's is 68 points, and you have another argument that Nimmo is a better hitter

Nimmo's 0.64 K:BB ratio (yes he is walking more than he is striking out) is the big factor in his average being closer to his BABIP.

In AA, both Nimmo and Ceciliani had similar BABIP - .341 for Nimmo this year and .341 / .351 for Ceciliani over 2013-2014

If you put them at .340 in AAA - Nimmo's average would go up to around .315 and Ceciliani's drops to .285 - big, big difference.

This is how BABIP can unmask a hot streak and good luck from a truly talented baseball player.

Also, for reference, Ceciliani had a average MLB BABIP of .310 in his time in the majors - which led to his .206 batting average.

Oh, and while we are on the topic, Nimmo's BABIP in AA in 2014 - .154; which makes his .735 OPS that year way more impressive.

So, in summary - I agree with Mack, Nimmo is better and there really isn't a fair comparison when you peel back the numbers.

That being said, I think Ceciliani has a solid MLB career in front of him as a 4th OFer on a good team or a starter on a not so good team. I am glad he put his leg issues behind him and became a relevant player again.

Dallas said...

I love this analysis Lew. Gives me much better insight. Funny how numbers can be deceiving. I assume Reynolds last year had his average bolstered by some luck and seems to have regressed.

Unknown said...

Thanks Dallas

Without looking I recall Reynolds having a very high BABIP last year - I argued I needed to see a repeat year out of him to believe he was a real prospect -- that being said his numbers are still solid for a SS

The most handy place to find BABIP for minor leaguers is at BaseballCube.com

Reese Kaplan said...

I'm a big numbers guy and wondered what all the fuss was about Nimmo. The BABIP analysis makes me look anew. I did see him crush a ball last week and fly around the bases, but I also saw him look silly get struck out by a journeyman. I think Mack is right -- 4th outfielder.

Tom Brennan said...

Great point on BABIP, Lew. I wonder if the speedy Ceciliani beats out a lot of hits. I think one of his 3 hits last night was an infield hit. Is there a stat for infield hits?

I don't think either has a great future in the bigs, but when Darrell is looked at by some as "well, he's 25, how good can he be?", I think the fact that he missed so much time with injuries has to have us stand back a bit and see if this is the real Darrell.

AAA stats can be misleading, but at today's .345, he would be only 1 point behind the league qualifying batting leader and 16 points above the #2 guy. So I'd be a little slower to toss the results as an average guy with inflated #s.

I look forward to seeing where each of the guys is at come season's end.

Anonymous said...

Brandon Nimmo was a bad choice from the get-go. There were a lot better players left on the table to pick an obscure player no other team would pick as their #1 pick.

For all the praise given to the 3 GM trifecta, this was a combined bad choice. Very bad when you consider what was available for the Mets to pick at the time.

Ceciliani is and continues to be a better choice for the Mets than Capt. Kirk who the Mets keep recycling between Vegas and Queens but it wouldn't surprise me if the Mets end up losing him when they decide to keep Capt. Kirk and exposed Ceciliani.

Anonymous said...

Meant to say that Ceciliani is a better choice than both Capt. Kirk and Nimmo who will never amount to anything more than a 4th outfielder.

Mack Ade said...

Dallas - I think we'll regret the loss of Collin McHugh... err... Michael Fulmer

Tom Brennan said...

I hope they protect Ceciliani. I like the speed element he brings, faster than anyone on the Mets). Also, his slugging % (again realizing he has insufficient at bats to qualify) is # 1 in PCL. Amazing for a guy who was purely looked at as just a contact hitter when he was signed.

Unknown said...

There is also a good chance that with more AB's his luck regressed

But still - nice to seem him rebound to his Brooklyn form

Unknown said...

They already exposed Kirk - I am sure they do so again and keep Ceciliani over him

Tom Brennan said...

I am all for Ceciliani over Kirk, Lew.

eraff said...

Nimmo is 3 plus years younger...maybe more "upside", but that may be perception based on Pedigree. I like Cicilliani as well. I'll let them "make the call"

Unknown said...

I don't think it is even close - when I saw that Nimmo put up a .735 OPS in AA last year despite a criminally low BABIP of .154, that shows how good his other tools are.

You normalize that BABIP to .300 and his OPS last year would have been close to .900

I think next year he will have the breakout that Cecchini had this year - I think you guys knocking on him will be surprised.

Anonymous said...

"Dallas - I think we'll regret the loss of Collin McHugh... err... Michael Fulmer
August 18, 2015 at 11:42 AM"

I am with you. Fulmer is a big big loss for the Mets. Collin McHugh was never expected to be anything special but Fulmer has everything you want to see on a bulldog type ace in the making.

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