Moving on Up
Former Cyclones OF Nimmo settling in at Savannah
We’re just three weeks or so away from welcoming a new crop of Cyclones to MCU Park for the annual 76-game grind of a New York-Penn League season.
But as Opening Day (June 17 at Staten Island) approaches, it’s often interesting to take a quick peek at how some of the 2012 class of Baby Bums is faring as they progress up the Mets’ Minor League chain.
One of the most intriguing prospects in recent Cyclones history was last year’s star center fielder Brandon Nimmo, who led Brooklyn to the brink of a New York-Penn League Championship Series appearance during his first full short-season in the organization.
The 20-year-old Cheyenne, Wyoming native hit .248 with six homers, 20 doubles, a pair of triples, 41 runs scored and 46 walks in 69 games on Coney Island last summer, giving manager Rich Donnelly a strong everyday presence in the lineup as well as the outfield.
But it was Nimmo’s innate leadership abilities, as well as his versatility at the plate, that enamored Brooklyn’s sage third-year skipper with the 6-foot-3, 185-pound former first-round pick (13th overall, 2011).
“He’s such a good kid and he’s so beyond his years. I just watch him and admire him,” Donnelly said after seeing Nimmo repeatedly wait at the top of the dugout steps or in the tunnel leading to the Brooklyn clubhouse to congratulate his teammates after a big win or tell them to keep their heads up following a difficult defeat.
“I wish every kid could have his attitude because it’s special,” added Donnelly, who insisted following a slow start in June that Nimmo would emerge as a solid everyday contributor to our borough’s Class A franchise by the sea. “He’s above special. He’s a [then-19-year-old] kid. He came in here like a big leaguer and stood on top of the stairs shaking hands with 40 guys. That’s what big leaguers do.”
Nimmo, who didn’t play high school baseball because his home state didn’t provide an interscholastic hardball program, was drafted for his potential more so than his proven prowess on the diamond, though he did star on his American Legion team, earning the MVP award at the 2008 Under Armour High School All-American Game.
After conquering his first big hurdle in Brooklyn, where he played before capacity crowds with a bright media spotlight virtually every night, Nimmo has taken his budding game to significantly more sleepy Savannah, Georgia, where he is again fitting in quite nicely as the Sand Gnats’ regular center fielder.
As of Thursday afternoon, Nimmo was batting .299 (29-for-97) with a homer, three triples, a double and 11 RBIs for Savannah, drawing 14 walks and posting a solid .405 on-base percentage in 25 games batting near or at the top of the order.
Batting a sizzling .338 against right-handed pitchers, the lanky, lefty-swinging burst out of the gate with a red-hot April, hitting .322 over his first 22 games at the Class A long-season level.
A hand injury and some back issues slowed Nimmo’s progression a bit at the end of April as he went into a brutal 0-for-25 funk around which he missed more than three weeks of action. He’s gone 0-for-7 since his return to regular duty on Tuesday, but is slowly but surely working his way back into the form that has helped him emerge as the No. 4 prospect in the Mets’ system.
“Is he gonna struggle? You betcha,” Donnelly said of Nimmo. “Muhammad Ali was the greatest of all time, but he didn’t win every round. That’s what I tell the guys. You’re gonna get knocked down, but you have to bounce back.”
Despite taking an 0-for-5 in his return Tuesday, Nimmo was just happy to be a part of Savannah’s 8-3 victory over Greenville as the Sand Gnats continued to keep pace with first-place Charleston (a Yankees affiliate) for first place in the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division.
The future Met also congratulated his future big league teammates on their dramatic ninth-inning comeback win over Mariano Rivera and the Bronx Bombers at CitiField on Tuesday night.
“Finally off the DL today after a month!” Nimmo tweeted. “Glad to be back out there and get a win tonight! Congrats to the big club on the walk-off win!”
Savannah manager Luis Rojas, who initially worked with Nimmo during a teeth-cutting 10-game stint in Rookie ball in 2011, joined Donnelly in praising the on-the-rise prospect for his baseball acumen and overall diamond presence.
“That’s Brandon right there. Always a smile on his face … happy to be playing baseball,” Rojas recently told Newsday. “He’s going to be giving his best every day.”
This, That and the Other Thing: Nimmo certainly hasn’t been alone in making the adjustment from Brooklyn to Savannah. Fellow former Cyclones like C Kevin Plawecki and 1B Jayce Boyd are lighting up the SAL. Plawecki, a former Big Ten stud from Purdue, is hitting .339 with six homers and 36 RBIs thus far this season while Boyd, a member of Florida State’s College World Series team last spring, is batting a blistering .352 with three homers and 33 RBIs. … Other ex-Cyclones of note currently playing in Savannah include: OF Eudy Pina (5 homers, 24 RBIs), 1B Cole Frenzel (3 homers, 17 RBIs), 2B Jeff Reynolds (.278 avg. and 17 RBIs). … Former Brooklyn hurlers Gabriel Ynoa (6-2, 3.19 ERA), Rainy Lara (4-2, 1.42) and Matthew Bowman (7-0 with a 2.50 ERA between Savannah and Class A Advanced St. Lucie) are also taking their games to the next level down South. … Single-game and season ticket plans for the upcoming 2013 season on Coney Island can be purchased by visiting brooklyncyclones.com or calling 718-37-BKLYN.
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