Brandon Nimmo took a huge leap forward in 2021. He cut down on his strikeouts, increased his batting average, and did the impossible feat of ending any offseason hunt the New York Mets thought they might need to make to acquire a center fielder.
Yes, after years of being unjustly called a “fourth outfielder” or being criticized for his defense in center field, Nimmo has laid many of those doubts to rest. In 2021, he turned in a more than positive season on defense for the Mets while playing almost exclusively at the position many believed he was an ill-fit.
Mets no longer have the everlasting center field upgrade need
For several years, it seems like the Mets have gone into the offseason with the need to find a center fielder. Even in the heyday of Juan Lagares, the team seemed to at least check out the market.
This reached a new level last winter. George Springer was available and the sweepstakes came down to them and the team he eventually signed with, the Toronto Blue Jays. Missing out on one of the biggest center field free agents they could ever dream of adding, the team went forward with the plan to start Nimmo in center field and have Kevin Pillar waiting around for the occasional start.
Things have a funny way of working out. Nimmo grew as a center fielder this year as many of the Mets players did on defense. His glove wasn’t an issue in the least bit. More than ever, Nimmo looks like a complete player.
The Mets still do need a suitable backup option
I expect Pillar to be back with the Mets in 2022 which helps them survive what remains Nimmo’s greatest weakness: health. Nimmo missed two full months from the beginning of May until his return on July 3. The team performed differently without him. While they remained in first place, the offense didn’t click the same.
Every critique people have had regarding Nimmo seems to have dissipated. He was an exceptionally good hitter versus left-handed pitchers this year. The thought that he could only platoon has gone down the drain. However, if a two-month absence is in the cards for him on a yearly basis, it may feel like a platoon by season’s end.
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Nimmo’s breakout campaign in 2018 was only a hint of what he could accomplish. While not the prototypical leadoff hitter, his ability to get on base remains consistent every year. Add in a better batting average and this above-average defense, suddenly the Mets can completely erase the annual center field need for good.