Posted by Reese Kaplan at 8:00 AM
After a rather sluggish start to his minor league career, people were calling Sandy Alderson’s first-ever 1st round draft pick an almighty bust. We can skip over his brief 38 AB debut at age 18, but in his first extended look at age 19 he slashed a highly uninspiring .248/6/40 in 266 ABs. Now, granted, you could extrapolate that for full season numbers of 12/80 but the fact is few .248 hitters in the minors rise up to the majors. In fact, if not for his conspicuous status as a first rounder (and Alderson’s very first pick), he might have been buried in the minors while others who were not so lucky in draft status like T.J. Rivera would have advanced more quickly.
In his age 20 season he was moved up to Savannah where hitters go to die. His power certainly did as he provided only 2 HRs and 40 RBIs despite receiving nearly 400 ABs. His batting average increased but then so too did his strikeouts. 131 seemed awfully high for a guy not putting the ball over the fence. He did walk 71 times, however, so it seemed like his batting eye was a work in progress.
At age 21 he split time between A+ and AA, showing a little return of power with 10 HRs, 50 RBIs and a slight uptick to a .278 batting average. Strikeouts decreased significantly and walks increased. Although not a burner in the mold of Jose Reyes, he did show some speed with 14 thefts on the year.
His next season saw him at three levels, but it appears he hit something of a wall. The batting average, power and speed all regressed and the whispers were getting mighty loud that he was the next Reese Havens (and others of that ilk who were drafted high but never amounted to anything).
The Mets decided to give him a full season in the hitting paradise of Las Vegas in 2016 and the combination of the environment, his innate abilities and his confidence all seemed to work together nicely in unison to provide a terrific .352/11/61 season with only 73 strikeouts. His OBP was a spectacular .423 with enviable OPS and SLG numbers as well. Now PCL stats are like EPA gas mileage ratings. Your actual mileage may vary, but it was enough to inspire the Mets to promote him a few times during the year when injuries forced their hand. In his first trial in the majors he did not look overwhelmed. He finished his brief debut of 73 ABs with a .274 average and the second longest home run ever measured at CitiField.
A lot of people are wondering what will become of him as he continues to mature and adjust given his limited baseball experience (Wyoming never having had a baseball program). The comp I once offered up is the Marlins’ Christian Yelich. He too took some time to adjust to the majors with solid batting averages but limited power during his first three seasons. He began his career at age 21 and over those initial three seasons he hit as high as .300, but never tallied double digits in HRs and didn’t exceed 54 RBIs. He has a bit more speed and delivers a .368 OBP.
At age 24, however, it all came together for Yelich and he rewarded the Marlins faith by providing a season of .298/21/98. Will Nimmo ever be this good? It’s too soon to tell, but the stories are similar about late bloomers who parlayed selective hitting and good at-bats into solid numbers and eventually growing into their power. I list him as on-the-bubble for the upcoming season, but there’s no reason he can’t take over the Alejandro De Aza role at less than 10% of his cost.