Brandon Nimmo reached base four times in five trips -- two singles, a walk, and a hit by pitch -- in the Mets' 9-4 Opening Day victory over the Cardinals, as New York's on-base-behemoth showed off all the reasons why the lead off spot should be his to keep.
Entering Spring Training, there seemed to be no clear-cut candidate for the to leadoff, But an avenue opened up when Juan Lagares came down with a hamstring strain, and Nimmo ran with it. He slashed .306/.371/.613 with 3 HRs in 70 plate appearances, predominantly batting leadoff, and earned himself an Opening Day start atop the lineup and in center field. He’ll hold on to this role at least until Michael Conforto is ready to return, which could now be as early as April 5th.
Nimmo is rapidly gaining the reputation as a player who makes the most of his opportunities, and the opener was no different. Nimmo didn't let a struggling Carlos Martinez get off the mar. Nimmo gave him no help by swinging at bad pitches, and worked an impressive seven-pitch walk in the second inning. Nimmo also tacked on two base knocks, one of which was an infield single up the middle that he beat out. This has basically become Nimmo’s Modus Operandi through in his young career: see tons of pitches, don’t swing at ones you can’t hit, be happy with walks, and take nothing for granted.
And he doesn’t have merely good plate discipline; according to advanced metrics, Nimmo’s plate discipline is exceptional. According to David Adler of MLB.com, last year Nimmo was comparable to Pitch-Taking-God and Brian-Erni-Look-Alike Joey Votto with regards to pitch-chasing. In 2017, Nimmo only swung at 13.3 percent of pitches out of the zone, which was good for third-best in the league. Granted, Votto does a lot of other things that Nimmo can’t do, but this still bodes well for Nimmo to maintain the .371 on-base percentage he had in Spring Training.
This leaves the Mets in a tough position. They absolutely should not bench one of their best on-base guys once Conforto comes back, but there are only so many places where he can go. I’m still not sold on the Adrian Gonzalez reclamation project (his two-for-three with a double in the opener be damned), so the most logical thing to do would be to slide him to the bench and Jay Bruce to first, allowing Nimmo to take one of the outfield spots. This obviously creates a bevy of other problems (a disgruntled Gonzalez, sub-par defense at first, etc.), but Nimmo at the top of the order clearly makes this offense hum. And with tons of question marks at the back of the rotation, the Mets will need all the runs they can get..
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