Trenton, NJ- There’s arguably no bigger jump in the minors than from A-ball to Double-A. After two years of professional baseball, Brandon Nimmo is already there.
Add to that, the Mets 1st round pick (13th overall) in the 2011 MLB Draft didn’t play baseball in high school, and the impressive nature of Nimmo’s story grows.
He began the 2014 season in the High-A Florida State League, playing 62 games and hitting .322/.448/.458 with 25 RBI, and worked 50 walks in 227 at-bats for the St. Lucie Mets. That led to a league All Star Game nod. Since his promotion to Binghamton, he’s hitting .221/.352/.396, tacking on 19 more RBI, 29 walks and hit five home runs in 41 games.
The Eastern League has provided some challenges for him, particularly in June when he hit .171 in 11 games. He picked it up in July, hitting .243/.355/.447 and .316 in his last 10 games, but he’s facing them without changing much.
"The only difference is the balls I’ve put in play are not as hard", Nimmo said last week. "The strikes and walk ratio are not too much different. They’re a little bit more consistent here. It doesn’t feel overpowering, it’s just going to take time to get on track and have a little more consistency on balls I put in play."
When he debut in the New York Penn League in 2012, you couldn’t doubt his talent. But he also seemed like a seasoned professional, far older than his eighteen. He lacked arrogance, but not aggressiveness on the field at the plate. The kind of player a major league team hopes for. He went on to play 69 games for the Brooklyn Cyclones, finishing the season hitting .248/.376/.406 with 66 hits in 69 games.
Since then, he’s worked on putting on weight to increase his strength, participating in a rigorous off-season program. He also remained in Florida to devote more time to improving during the winter.
He wanted to develop more power, but not to the point of over-focus. Overall, though, he said he feels a difference in his swing. And where the ball goes.
"I think it’s been good. I’ve showed some power [in this league]. Four to five of my home runs have been to left field or left center, and I didn’t do that before this year. I think it’s paying off. There’s still more to be tapped into," he said.
Power hitters tend to try for power, a habit that can adversely affect them. Nimmo insists he won’t start going to the plate with intent to hit the ball out of the park.
"It’s a byproduct of getting stronger, but I don’t go up there to try and hit home runs. I do think the better I get in my game, the more home runs I"ll hit. It’s not something I try to do."
Since his professional career began, he’s made changes to his game, but not so much that he’s trailed away from the Mets plan. They’ve encouraged his aggressive approach, with a focus on how to apply that aggression and when. A big physical kid, Nimmo has had to learn when to lay off pitches he can’t handle.
"It’s that controlled aggression. I’m getting walks. If I don’t get my pitch, I don’t have to swing. There are times to be more or less aggressive," he said.
Overall, as this season winds down, Nimmo acknowledges results of his efforts this season in Double-A. But there’s also been growth in his ability to relax, and not press.
"I’ve worked on having better rhythm with the pitcher. I have better confidence each day. But it’s also, don’t be mechanical and stiff. Have fun, put the work in, and let the chips fall where they may."
Observations from Jessica: Nimmo led off for Binghamton that night, and got started with a hard-hit single up the middle. His two-strike approach was impressive. The 'controlled aggression' he talked about was obvious right away. He held up on a pitch outside, and with two strikes, attacked a fastball in the middle of the plate. Definite affirmative on increased power. He scored a run later in the inning, and as he was when in Short-A ball, he's a smart base runner with good speed.. He struck out later in the game, late on a fastball that he couldn't handle. He's physically filled out more and his approach is very much the same, patient, aggressive, but definitely smarter. He looks like he's still getting comfortable with more advanced pitching in the league.