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Brandon Nimmo Can Be An Impact Prospect in the Mold of Bryce Harper



By Chuck Johnson ~ August 16th, 2011. Filed under: Digest Contributors, Mets Minors.

Now that he’s officially a New York Met, with his freshly signed with his $2.1 million dollar contract firmly in hand, it’s finally now an appropriate time to take a scout’s eye view of first round pick Brandon Nimmo.

To say Nimmo is a scouting success is an understatement, even with the advancement in technology and ease of travel. First, he comes from the state of Wyoming, which has the smallest population of any state in the Union and is one of only three states which doesn’t sanction high school baseball.

Secondly, no current Major League franchise has a scout living in Wyoming; it’s part of a much larger area which often includes Montana and the Dakotas. Third, since the state doesn’t play high school baseball, in part because their summers are so short, it makes little sense to base someone there and then travel as it’s more costly.

Nimmo first gained national attention a year ago in, of all places, Cary, North Carolina, the home base of USA Baseball and the site of the annual Tournament of Stars. After hitting over .400 for the tournament, Nimmo was invited to play in the Under Armour All-American game which was played at legendary Wrigley Field in Chicago. Nimmo picked up MVP honors on the heels of a 2-4 performance which included two runs and two RBI’s against some of the best high school aged talent in the country. Nimmo then capped off his summer with an All-Tournament selection in the Arizona Senior Fall Classic.

Nimmo’s introduction to baseball came from hanging around his older brother Bryce, the starting centerfielder on the 2005 University of Nebraska team which reached the College World Series and where he was teammates with Brian Duensing, Joba Chamberlain and Alex Gordon. While baseball was Nimmo’s first sport, it wasn’t his only sport, he played basketball (16 points, 12 rebounds a game his junior season), football (scholarship offers to Washington State and Boise State as a wide receiver), and ran indoor track.

A torn ACL in his right knee during his sophomore season cost him not only the rest of that season, but most of the following basebal season as well, and gave him the opportunity to put his priorities in line. Nimmo worked out for several teams during a brief trip to Arizona in March and while he seemed to be 100%, he was wearing a knee brace.

If you had a chance to hear Pat Gillick‘s Hall of Fame Induction speech, you would know he started his baseball career as a scout, and told an entertaining story surrounding the signing of future Yankees outfielder Al Shirley. Things like that, while making for lively back room conversation, probably wouldn’t happen today, what with YouTube, portable electronic devices which allow for instant messaging of pictures and even video. I’ve had coaches, parents, school supporters, siblings, neighbors, you name it, email freshly minted game action videos to me that I’ve seen while stuck in traffic, waiting in line to pick up a pizza, and riding the van pool home from work. Almost gone are the days where you would stumble on a kid throwing rocks at pigeons while driving down a muddy back road with one eye on your surroundings and the other on the gas gauge.

After he was drafted, Nimmo’s father, Ron, said they had been in contact with twenty-three of the thirty major league teams, so, whether intentional or not, word sure traveled fast after his whirlwind performance last summer.

Nimmo the player is a projectible (meaning he’s not done growing) 6’3″, 175 pound outfielder who is a lefty hitter and righty thrower.

Despite the lack of high school playing experience, Nimmo’s Cheyenne Post 6 American Legion team has averaged seventy games over the past two seasons, and Nimmo himself has played more of late due to his rising prospect status and participation at the National team level, he’s considered an advanced prospect for his age.

I’m sure everyone reading has heard the term “Grading Scale”, or more commonly, “Scout Scale.” This is exactly as it appears, it is a scale upon which scouts grade players on a number of different factors, including off-field behaviors, assigning each an individual grade which leads to an overall score. While the scale itself is designed with a 0-10 range, the most common application is the “20/80 scale”, sometimes narrowed to “2/8″. Some teams, including the one I spent some time with, the Seattle Mariners, use the 20/80 version because it’s easier to apply, and also because some scouts are prone to using fractions when grading. Ratings of nine and ten are reserved for major league players, usually during contract or trade negotiations, ratings of zero or one usually mean you’re not getting signed, unless you truly are a ten somewhere else.

There are five baseball skills which are the most often graded, and where the term “tools” come from, such as “five tool player”, which is a description of a player who grades at or near the top in all five.

These tools are; hitting, fielding, running, throwing, and hitting with power.

Based on observation and independent research, below is where I believe Nimmo fits CURRENTLY as a prospect, and not where I think he will be in three or four years.

Arm: Nimmo’s arm has been called everything from “solid average” to “fringe plus”, which would slot him somewhere in the 5 to 6 range, maybe as high as six and a half. In looking at the video the first thing that jumps at me is the hitch he has in his throwing motion. I like the fact the hitch is at the bottom of his arc and not closer to his release point, which makes it an easier fix one he reports to Instructional League. Notice at about halfway through the video he makes two one hop throws to the plate, both of which bounce true to the catcher. This is a good sign in that his release point is consistent and he throws with an over the top motion, both of which are paramount for an outfielder. Neither his carry or trajectory stand out, but considering it was batting practice, nothing to be concerned with, especially when knowing the adjustments to his motion will fix both in one shot.

Running: A common misconception with running, especially with the sabermetric stat community, is the association of “baserunning” and ” speed”, especially as it relates to stolen bases, to be the same thing. They are not. Speed, as it is known, is the only “tool” which doesn’t go into slumps, and is also the only tool which is used equally both offensively and defensively. But footwork is also an important part of the equation too, and is usually ranked seperately. Nimmo has run a post-surgery 6.39 60 with an average of 6.5. This puts him at a 7 on the scale, and his hitting the magical 6.4 puts him a tick higher. Conversely, he is a bit slow coming out of the box, and as I’ll discuss later, has some fixable issues there as well which should boost his home to first times up the chart. So, for now, I’d rank him overall just a bit below seven, or as in the case with his arm, “fringe plus”.

Hitting: Hitting is the most difficult tool for scouts to label because you are trying to project an amateur player using an aluminum bat to how he will perform using wood bats as a pro. Thankfully, most of these high end amateur scout teams and leagues now use wood bats, so it’s a bit easier to gauge things accurately, such as his ability to barrel the ball. Trust me, there’s nothing more frustrating than watching a kid get four hits in a game on pitches that would have turned wood bats into toothpicks. Nimmo has plus hitting potential, but being as his experience is limited, as is the video, it’s difficult, if not impossible to label him. Pro scouts are positive about his hit tool, with some saying his “polish with the bat” to be almost as impressive as his speed. During his MVP performance last summer in the Under Armour game, he doubled down the left fleld line and singled through shortstop for his two hits, so he’s not afraid to use the opposite field and is comfortable with his hitting style and approach. In looking at the video, there are two things which I would fix immediately, and which I think the Mets’s staff will as well. First, there is too much movement in his lower body. I’m not opposed to lower body movement at all, heck, that’s the way I hit when I played, but my movement was more of a balance check than a trigger. I also think Nimmo’s hands are too close to his head. I would move them back eight inches or so, just far enough to get his front elbow off his hip and his right forearm parallel to the ground. This would eliminate any upper body movement, which isn’t very good for any hitter, and would allow him to keep his head, and eyes, fixed on the pitcher. At this point, if he wanted to waggle his lower body, or tap his front foot, then he could do so without knocking himself off his foundation.

Fielding: This is one aspect where having quick feet is almost as important as foot speed. It’s one thing to possess the speed of a Jacoby Ellsbury and use it to run down fly balls, but what good is it if you can’t judge the ball off the bat? Footwork is also important as it is the beginning of the throwing motion, if you catch balls with your weight on your front side, or if you pick up base hits off the wrong foot, you are not only adding time to the play, but also the added possibility of a misplay or bad throw. Nimmo has shown both the ability to recognize the ball off the bat early and also to consistently be in position to make a play after he has.. He has the speed to play center, and with some adjustments, the consistent arm strength to play right. Without seeing him in game action it’s hard to rank him accurately, however the consensus is by the time he reaches New York he will be a solid average to plus outfielder.

Hitting for Power: While not quite as difficult to project as the overall hit tool because not everyone HAS power, it still can be a tricky one fo figure out at times. It is also the one tool which causes the most disagreement among scouts; some believing proper technique and mechanics helps create bat speed, others believing bat speed to be an unteachable skill. In comparing to last year’s number one pick, Bryce Harper, his bat speed is predicated on strength and not proper fundamentals or mechanics. If you’re an eighteen year old who ranks at the top of the scale, the only place for you to go is down. The higher you advance through pro ball, the better quality and quantity of pitching you wll see, meaning they are expert in knowing how to turn a hitter’s strength into a weakness. It’s been said for years power is the last tool to develop, with a player’s prime power seasons coming during the middle third of his career, based on a fifteen year career. If bat speed were the sole reason for power, one could assume prime power years would come in the first third. So, as a hitter matures, and becomes more aware of how to hit, is when his power numbers go up, even as he has passed his physical prime and his bat speed has actually started to go down. Where does Nimmo profile power wise? It’s impossible to say, although no one thought Ike Davis would be a 20 homer guy when he was drafted either, and that’s including playing half the time in CitiField.

Summarizing, Nimmo right now has two above average major league tools, and two that can be with some minor adjustments. As he progresses through the Mets’ system and learns the ins and outs of being a professional baseball player, and what it takes to not only reach the major leagues, but to stay there, I believe he has the potential to be a middle of the order force in the lineup and a player who can impact the outcome of a game in all aspects.

Immediately following the signing period, Baseball America updated the Mets’ top ten prospect list, with Nimmo placing third behind pitchers Zach Wheeler and Matt Harvey, making him the top positional prospect in the organization.

I’ve heard it before, I’ve seen it before, and I’ve read it before. While Nimmo may not have the quality of tools Bryce Harper has now, he has a quality of tools Harper does not, and with some adjustments and experience will be a better player down the road. Players who peak early (see Montero, Jesus) dominate the opposition with physical strength, and not talent. The older they get, and the more advanced the competition, the more the playing field levels off, to the point strength can no longer carry you.

Ask anyone right now who they would rather have, Nimmo or Harper, and it would be unanimous for Harper. Ten years from now, it very well could be the other way around. And, quite frankly, ten years from now is more important, wouldn’t you agree?

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A life-long Yankee fan who counts among his fondest memories seeing “The Mick” play in person, Chuck is a long time member of SABR and the Minor League Alumni Association. A staff researcher for Retrosheet, and a former part-time scout with the Mariners, Chuck now works for the Milwaukee Brewers in their Spring Training Operations Office and holds a similar role in the offseason for the Arizona Fall League. Chuck's newest venture is as a staff writer for MLB.com's new minor league blog http://thefuturists.mlblogs.com, led by Senior Writer Jonathan Mayo. You can check him out there under user cjohns56 (same as Twitter), and on his soon to be launched personal website, www.mlbprospectpulse.com.

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15 Responses to Brandon Nimmo Can Be An Impact Prospect in the Mold of Bryce Harper

  1. your blog sucks

    kill yourself, please!

  2. philosofool

    This is the same website that once comped Jenrry Mejia to Felix Hernandez. You’re fishing for hits and it impugns your credibility.

  3. Dave

    Lets not get carried away here, Nimmo is no Harper!!!

  4. Chuck Johnson

    What are you basing that on, Dave?

    That Nimmo wasn’t on a Sports Illustrated cover?

    That he wasn’t the first overall pick?

    That he got two million and Harper got ten?

    I guess it’s a fair assumption to say Harper’s no Mike Trout, right?

  5. Mike Silva

    When did I compare Mejia to King Felix? Please provide the proof to educate me

  6. Dave

    Chuck don’t get upset! I’m not saying Nimmo was not a great pick or that he wob’t become a all-star. Just that as of today he no Harper.

    What do I base it on?…Harper being on the All American Team at 12, 13 and 14 years old. All World Team, All Area Code Team and several other awards at 15. Was the High School Player of the Year at 16 then dropped out 2 yrs early to play Jr. college. Then earn SWAC Player of the Year as a freshman. Before being drafted. Or maybe its his solid stats in his first year in pro ball.

    “Harper’s no Mike Trout” – You got that backwards Trout is no Harper. It’s not a question of if Harper will make the majors, it’s a question of when!

  7. Mike Silva

    Before we anoint Harper the next coming his line at Double- A is .254/.324/.397 with three home runs and seven doubles in 143 plate appearances. He pulled his hamstring last night and the Nats appear ready to shut him down for the season.

  8. Chuck Johnson

    “Was the High School Player of the Year at 16 then dropped out 2 yrs early to play Jr. college.”

    You know why he did that, right?

    Because if he had waited to go into this year’s draft, there’s no chance he was the number one pick.

    Scott Boras is a lot of things, stupid isn’t one of them.

    Harper doesn’t have the skill set Trout does, and I’ll bet you anything when he’s 21 years old he’s not putting up the same numbers Mike Stanton is.

    I admire what Harper’s done, nineteen years old in Double A is a pretty impressive accomplishment, but he’s only there because of the hype and not because he’s earned the right.

    You’ve never see Harper play and he could be standing next to you and you wouldn’t know it.

  9. Chuck Johnson

    “the Nats appear ready to shut him down for the season”

    AFL?

  10. Mike Silva

    What would be the point of sending him to the AFL? The press coverage might make that an undesirable situation.

  11. Chuck Johnson

    “The press coverage might make that an undesirable situation.”

    He was here last year, so the coverage would be less.

    There really is no press coverage in the AFL.

    They are VERY restrictive in that regard.

  12. Joseph DelGrippo

    “Before we anoint Harper the next coming his line at Double- A is .254/.324/.397 with three home runs and seven doubles in 143 plate appearances. He pulled his hamstring last night and the Nats appear ready to shut him down for the season.”

    First off, Mike, if Brandon Nimmo put up a .721 OPS in Double A during his first two months there, you would be ecstatic.

    The one thing you have continued to patrol is the ripping of talented young players who are NOT part of the Mets organization. Harper is far and away a better prospect thatn anyone in the Mets system.

    Re: Harper, you said “What would be the point of sending him to the AFL? The press coverage might make that an undesirable situation.”

    Harper was in the AFL last season on the taxi squad (meaning a later addition), where he hit .343 and slugged .629 against mostly Double A and Triple A competition. These numbers were better than Eric Hosmer and other top prospects hit in the AFL. I saw him play a few games out there last fall and a couple games in Low A this season.

    The press coverage was standard for the Nats player, limited access to the kid with questions limited to only on the field stuff. They were the Natioanls rules, not Harper’s. Which is fine and dandy, because I only wanted to know what his thoughts and isntincts are ON THE FIELD.

    When I texted you last year from the AFL and said I talked with Harper for 10 minutes, your first text back asked, “Was he a jerk?”

    No, he wasn’t. He was polite and honest with questions. I met his dad, too, one game during the AFL and sat with him for a couple hours talking baseball and his son. His Dad couldn’t have been nicer or more accomodating.

    So it appears you have it in for Harper like the way you had it in for Joba, hyped kids who have performed well up to the point where they are finished being hyped. But the kids aren’t doing the hyping, it is the 24 hour media that is today’s society which does the hyping.

    The kid is good, and he is still only 18 in Double A, and tore up the SALLY league this year. Nimmo is only FIVE months younger than Harper and will likely not be in Double A until at least his age 21 season.

    As I said earlier, you would kill to have Nimmo begin his career like Harper has hitting .297 with 17 home runs at the age of 18, all the while learning a brand new position.

  13. Dave

    “You’ve never see Harper play and he could be standing next to you and you wouldn’t know it.”

    You sure about that Chuck? Or just guessing and throwing out your opinion again?

    HOW IN WORLD WOULD YOU KNOW IF I EVEN SEEN HARPER PLAY? You know for a fact that I’ve never been to Harrisburg PA or Hagerstown, MD?

    I’m sure why you’re attacking me, but like I said Nimmo is no Harper. Harper is as close to a can’t miss prospect as you can get, there are question on Nimmo. Alderson said himself that picking Nimmo was a risk! Maybe you missed that interview!

  14. Chuck Johnson

    No disrespect Dave, but I’ve been around long enough where I’m like a K9 police dog..I can smell out an ounce of shit in a ton of rose petals.

    Did you know;

    Neal Huntington said if the Pirates had the number one pick last year that they would have still taken Jameson Taillon?

    Did you know;

    Baseball America polled their scouting staff (which includes me, FYI) with a mock draft of every number one pick of the past 20 years and Harper went fifteenth?

    Did you know:

    That Harper went to JC last year at the request of Scott Boras because he knew last year’s draft was horrible and if he was in this year’s draft he probably wouldn’t have gone in the top ten?

    Bryce Harper’s major league ceiling is a lefthanded Mark Reynolds.

    His floor is Jack Cust.

    Either way, he’s not worth the attention or the money.

  15. Dave

    “No disrespect Dave, but I’ve been around long enough where I’m like a K9 police dog..I can smell out an ounce of shit in a ton of rose petals”

    Wow you’re pilling it pretty high, no disrespect Chuck.

    “Did you know; Neal Huntington said if the Pirates had the number one pick last year that they would have still taken Jameson Taillon?”

    Why, yes I did Chuck!

    “Did you know;Baseball America polled their scouting staff (which includes me, FYI) with a mock draft of every number one pick of the past 20 years and Harper went fifteenth?”

    Not sure if you’re part of BA, but I have my doubt! As of today 15th sounds about right. With the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Joe Mauer, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Hamilton being drafted. Along with at least 9 others taht made the majors.

    “Did you know:That Harper went to JC last year at the request of Scott Boras because he knew last year’s draft was horrible and if he was in this year’s draft he probably wouldn’t have gone in the top ten?”

    Again, yes I did Chuck!

    “Bryce Harper’s major league ceiling is a lefthanded Mark Reynolds. His floor is Jack Cust.
    Either way, he’s not worth the attention or the money.”

    I haven’t heard him compared to any past or present major leaguer. As for him not be worsth the attention of the money , I agree 100% with you on that point. In fact DONE of todays players are worth the money they’re making!

    Here what I do know. Picking Nimmo was a risk, a risk worth taking and a prospect with a lot of up side. Harper will make the majors, there is no doubt about that!

    BA even says about Harper “The most hyped prospect in draft history, Harper has superstar potential, and it’s hard to find an evaluator who thinks he’ll fall short of that ceiling.”

    I think your just dislike Harper, you don’t like him. The Bryce Harper you think you know is the arrogant egomaniac drafted No. 1 overall by the Nationals in 2010. He’s spoiled, selfish, immature. A punk. That’s what everyone says, and everyone couldn’t be wrong. Could they?

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