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Let’s talk about Brandon Nimmo, shall we?

Colorado Rockies news and links for Wednesday, November 2, 2022

There was quite a stir of discussion on Twitter over the past week after word from Patrick Saunders’ mailbag article in The Denver Post mentioned that New York Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo was on a preliminary “wishlist” for the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies have mentioned that they are looking to address center field for 2023 among other areas and the name that has come up the most among fans and outlets is that of Nimmo. So, let’s talk about the prospect of the idea a bit further, shall we?

At first glance, Nimmo does make hypothetical sense and checks off some boxes for the Rockies.

  • Hits left-handed
  • Is a lead off hitter
  • Plays center field

Those are three areas that the Rockies have struggled with this past season. The lineup is incredibly geared towards right-handed batters with Charlie Blackmon and Ryan McMahon as the only southpaw-swinging regulars in the lineup. The team had generally even splits between the same side matchups and did just fine in the opposite-hand matchups. Specifically, the left-on-left matchups were strong and Nimmo would help add more variety to the lineup.

Against left-handed pitching in 2022, Nimmo batted .264/.358/.428 with 5 home runs, 26 RBI, 47 strikeouts, and 24 walks. Join that line with what he did against right-handed pitching where he upped it to a .280/.372/.435 line with 11 HR, 38 RBI, 69 strikeouts, and 47 walks. Home and away, right or left, Nimmo displayed a consistent approach that makes him a valuable target and even more because of his lead off abilities.

Out of the 151 games Nimmo played in 2022, he started 148 of them as the lead off hitter. He made only four at-bats out of that top slot in the lineup and that was because he came in as a substitute in one game and batted second. Essentially, his entire production on the season, in what became a career year, Nimmo did it all out of the lead off spot. He slashed .276/.368/.435 and had 159 hits, including 30 doubles, seven triples, and 16 home runs, while also driving in 64 runs and scoring 101 himself. Not to mention he drew 71 walks and struck out 114 times both of which are not too shabby in today’s game.

The Rockies struggled out of the leadoff position in 2022. Nine different hitters tried their hand in the lead off spot with Connor Joe spending the most time there at 84 games and a .250 AVG and a .708 OPS. We saw Charlie Blackmon return for a while but struggle to a .165 AVG in 31 games and Ryan McMahon even experimented with the spot and had some power return with seven home runs in 26 games, but still struggled with strikeouts. Yonathan Daza showed some promise with a .313 AVG, but his .396 SLG still displays some of the lineup’s general problems.

As a group on the year, the Rockies batted .237/.320/.366 out of the lead off spot with 156 hits including 27 doubles, five triples, and 16 home runs, with 53 RBI, 92 runs scored, 151 strikeouts, and 70 walks. That’s right, the Rockies basically had something comparable to Nimmo’s production, spread across nine players, but Nimmo was better overall. So, it may not be a bad idea to get someone to fill that position consistently and effectively and provide some stability in the lineup so that it isn’t constantly shifting around.

Finally, there is the defensive position of Nimmo. Center field has been his position of choice for many years, though he has spent a decent amount of time at all three outfield spots. He played all of his games in 2022 patroling center and ended up posting a -3 DRS and a -0.4 UZR there. They aren’t terrible numbers to post in a difficult position, but still don’t inspire the most hope in a spot the team has struggled to fill defensively. Yonathan Daza played quite a bit there and did a stand-up job, but the numbers are reflective of Nimmo’s glove stats. The same goes for Randal Grichuk who did better than expected in center but is better suited for right field if he is still here next season.

Now, I won’t go into the advanced batted ball metrics (folks better than me can analyze and explain them) but I will explore some of the dangers of the Nimmo signing.

First and foremost is a question of Nimmo’s health. In his seven-year career in the big leagues, Nimmo has played in over 100 games just twice (aside from the shortened 60-game season in 2020 in which he did play 55 games). Injuries have sidelined him for multiple stints in his career, which is a hindrance because when he is on the field he is a productive member of the lineup.

Now, some of those injuries could be chalked up to sheer bad luck. How can you plan to avoid a collapsed lung as he suffered in 2017, or the multiple injuries to his index finger over the past several years? But the team may be hesitant if they get an indication he won’t be healthy enough to play in Colorado (a place that does take a toll on players), and don’t want to have a repeat of Kris Bryant’s 2022.

Of course, there is a matter of cost and demand. Nimmo will be a hot commodity on the market with the Mets keen on retaining him and other teams with deeper wallets with a better position competitively also inquiring. He will most certainly receive a qualifying offer worth over $19 million from the Mets and are the Rockies willing to spend big again on a 30+-year-old in the outfield for at least a five-year contract worth over $100 million?

The Rockies could follow this route, but they still need to be smart about how and where they spend their money. Dumping a huge contract on one player isn’t going to solve all their problems (see Kris Bryant 2022), and that money could be spread out elsewhere for pitching and a cheaper center field option, or they could do the unthinkable and trade for help.

Either way, Brandon Nimmo wouldn’t be a bad pick-up for the Rockies, and would certainly be an upgrade in a lot of aspects, but with all the things the team needs right now, is he the right course of action? That’s a riddle Bill Schmidt and the front office will have to answer this offseason.

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