Fantasy Baseball: It's Time to View Brandon Nimmo as an Elite Asset
Entering the 2018 season, it appeared the New York Mets had a few too many outfielders. Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto were seen as mainstays for the team, and the team signed Jay Bruce to a three-year, $39 million contract to split time between first base and the outfield, with Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares figuring into rotational roles.
Who would have thought that by mid-June, it would be Nimmo who's having, by far, the most productive season of any of those players?
Cespedes has been on the disabled list since mid-May with a hip flexor, and Bruce was placed on the disabled list last week after battling hip soreness. Prior to hitting the DL, Bruce wasn't do much anyway, hitting just .212 with a .613 OPS. And since returning from a shoulder injury back in early April, Conforto has been fairly mediocre (.325 wOBA, 108 wRC+).
Nimmo, meanwhile, has emerged not only as the Mets' most effective (and healthiest) outfielder this season, he's also emerged as one of the best outfielders in baseball. And if you've owned him in fantasy, he's been killing it for you all season long.
But with just over half of the season remaining, what should you do as an owner or wannabe Nimmo owner?
Best of the Mets
When breaking down the stats of the New York outfielders, it's clear no one can come close to Nimmo's production this season.
Nimmo has been worth two wins more than any other New York outfielder this season, leading in homers, runs scored, stolen bases, on-base percentage (among qualified outfielders), wOBA and wRC+.
Not only that, Nimmo has been the best overall position player on the Mets, too. His 2.7 fWAR is more than a full win better than Asdrubal Cabrera's 1.6, with a huge gap in wOBA (.415 to .341) and wRC+ (168-118) between the two.
It's clear -- Nimmo is the Mets' offensive MVP this season, and perhaps we should have seen this coming.
Nimmo was a very effective hitter last year when, in 69 games (215 plate appearances), he slashed .260/.379/.418 with 5 homers, 21 RBI and 26 runs scored. He struck out a lot (27.9%) but also walked a good deal, too (15.3%). In just those 69 games, he played pretty good defense and was worth 1.2 fWAR.
Clearly, the guy knows how to get on base and, while his OBP is over .400, he has traded some walks for power. His walk rate is down to 12.4% in 2018, but he's seen an increase in his isolated power, from .158 to .293. He's also cut down on his strikeout rate (26.5%) some to boot.
One thing Nimmo has done is concentrate on pulling the ball more, something that makes a lot of sense with a short right field porch in Citi Field. He's pulling the ball 44.5% of the time this year, way up from 32.5% last year. He's also hitting fewer grounders -- down from 42.9% last year to 38.1% this season -- and more fly-balls -- 42.9% of the time this season, up from 32.8% a year ago.
And when he hits fly-balls, they're leaving the yard more often (22.2% of the time) than a year ago (12.8%). Just last week, Nimmo had a two-homer game against the Colorado Rockies, one of them an inside-the-parker.
Brandon Nimmo needed just 14.70 seconds to smile his way around the bases on his inside-the-parker, per Statcast, the fifth-fastest home-to-home time Statcast has recorded since its inception in 2015. (h/t @MannyOnMLB)
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) June 19, 2018
Will he be as quick to go from irrelevant to All-Star caliber player?
Nimmo is clearly having a breakout season, but it's even more impressive when you see where he ranks among MLB outfielders this season.
Only Mike Trout and Mookie Betts have a better on-base percentage. Betts, Trout, J.D. Martinez and Eddie Rosario are the only ones with a better slugging percentage. Trout, Betts and Martinez are the only ones with a better wOBA, wRC+ and OPS, and only Trout, Betts, Aaron Judge, Lorenzo Cain, Rosario and Andrew Benintendi have a better fWAR.
What more could you ask for?
Moving Up Fantasy Rankings
At this point, Nimmo has to be considered one of the best outfielders in fantasy. He currently ranks among the elite players in the game, and his increase in power comes with a baseline of high walks and pretty good contact.
Our projections expect Nimmo to slow down a bit, though. In 245 plate appearances the rest of the way, we see him hitting .257 with an OPS of .809, with 9 more homers, 29 RBI, and 32 runs scored while adding 4 more steals to his oh-so-valuable 7 on the year.
If you missed out on an opportunity to buy the Mets' young star in your fantasy league, it might be too late to get him at a discount. If you own him, pairing him with a lower-level player for an upper tier asset at a position where you might be weaker could net you something really good. Spinning a red-hot player with an uncertain future for a well-established star might be the way to go when considering the emergence of Brandon Nimmo.