The New York Mets were expected to have a busy Winter, after it was made public that Steve Cohen would be the new owner and Sandy Alderson the new president. They managed to bring reinforcements to several positions in need.
Brandon Nimmo was the Metsâ€™ starting center fielder during the short 2020 season. With the bat, he was phenomenal, slashing .280/.404/.484 with eight home runs, a .387 wOBA, and a 148 wRC+. However, his defense left a lot to be desired.
Nimmo was solid in the corners for the Mets, but in center, he had -5 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), a -4.1 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and a -19.2 UZR/150. Statcastâ€™s Outs Above Average had him in the 2nd percentile, which means that 98% of his peers were better than him.
The Mets brought not one, but two glove-first center fielders in Kevin Pillar and Albert Almora Jr., and while Nimmo is still the starter, he figures to be subbed a lot late in games if he doesnâ€™t improve.
“I did hear about it. I tried to not pay attention too much,” Nimmo said via Zoom on Thursday about the rumors. “I wanted to try and get the feedback from Luis (Rojas) and Sandy (Alderson) and Zack (Scott) and their message hadn’t changed from ‘you’re our center fielder until otherwise.’ And so as far as that goes, I tried to just keep preparing for center field.
“There definitely was a lot of talk going on, and I always welcome the thought of another great player. … If someone pushes me out of center field, they’re a pretty dang good center fielder, so then I feel good about playing corner (outfield) or something like that.”
If the National League returns to using a designated hitter, the Mets could slide Nimmo to left and use Dom Smith at first or at the DH, the other spot going to Pete Alonso. But that doesnâ€™t appear to be the case.
The Mets want Nimmo to be the best center fielder he can be
Nimmo has been working on his defense. According to SNY, he has used information that the Mets helped him gather.
“I’ve been getting ready this whole offseason for center field. And yeah there’s definitely things that I need to work on and that I’m gonna continue to work on,” Nimmo explained. “I think playing depth is one of those things that they outlined in the analytics. There’s other things in the analytics that we can highlight and we can go after. I think that’s one big thing that will help me.
“I’m trying to convey to everyone here — and we’ve had mutual conversations about it — that I can play center field, I can do it well. There’s definitely some things to improve upon. If there’s one person that can make adjustments, I think it’s me. … I take it as a challenge to be a better defender and be a better leader out there.”
“I think early on in the season (in 2020), I think honestly I was playing too shallow,” he said. “And so that was keeping me from catching a lot of balls I think the metrics would say are very catchable balls. That was something we tried to improve on at the end. There was definitely a couple of balls that I just screwed up on. And in 60 games, that’s gonna be highlighted. You’re not gonna have the longevity to make that up.”
The Metsâ€™ outfielder is also working on having a quicker first step.
“I noticed a difference when we made that adjustment right away,” Nimmo said about his positioning. “Definitely was able to play more balls and be able to play the wall a lot easier, a lot better. And then coming in on balls is a strong suit of mine as far as just being able to haul in, rather than going back.”