By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
If development is the primary purpose of a major league club's minor league affiliates, then Brandon Nimmo has provided the blueprint for improving with virtually every game he has played as a Brooklyn Cyclone this summer.
The Mets' first-round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft is slowly but surely developing into one of the organization's top young prospects during his first full season as a professional, exactly what the Mets were hoping for when they selected the 19-year-old Wyoming native with the 13th overall pick the June before last.
After struggling to bat a paltry .200 this past June, Nimmo upped his average to .270 in July. Thus far this month, the Baby Bums' center fielder is hitting a sizzling .333 with a homer and seven RBIs, though he has been limited to only 13 games in August due to a shoulder injury.
Brooklyn manager Rich Donnelly, who insisted earlier in the season that Nimmo would find a way out of his offensive malaise, has watched proudly from the third-base coach's box as Nimmo has gone on a serious tear during the Cyclones' drive toward the playoffs.
Last Friday night in Troy, N.Y., Nimmo had arguably his best game of the year, helping Brooklyn avert a three-game sweep at the hands of the New York-Penn League-leading Tri-City ValleyCats. He finished 3-for-6 with a homer, six RBIs and two runs scored as the Cyclones cruised to a 12-4 win before taking two of three in Vermont over the weekend, to remain five games ahead of Batavia in the hunt for the league's lone wild-card spot.
Nimmo singled and scored in the third inning, drove in two runs with a base hit in the fourth and capped his big day with a grand slam — his league-leading second bases-loaded jack and fourth homer of the summer -- in the ninth. The Cyclones' leader in runs (36), hits (56), doubles (18), RBIs (31), total bases (88), walks (36), batting average (.272) and on-base-plus slugging percentage (.821) appears headed for the Sterling Award as the Mets' top prospect at the Class A short-season level.
And to think, many spent the first two months of the season wondering whether the Mets had squandered a first-round pick and the $2.1 million signing bonus they handed Nimmo just last summer.
"I think I just finally realized how to take pressure off myself," Nimmo told MiLB.com after his huge performance in Vermont. "I think that first month, even when I didn't know it, I was putting pressure on myself with expectations."
To his credit, Donnelly had the kid pegged right from the start.
“He’s such a good kid and he’s so beyond his years, I just watch him and admire him," Donnelly gushed over Nimmo following a 2-0 win over Staten Island on Opening Night. "I wish every kid could have his attitude because it’s special. He’s above special. He’s a 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."
Of course, the seemingly short road from Coney Island to Citi Field in Flushing remains a long, arduous one, even for a player of Nimmo's draft status and bourgeoning talent. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound outfielder will likely have to make stops at Class A Savannah, Class A Advanced St. Lucie, Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Buffalo before realizing his dream of playing in the big leagues.
“It’s not like you leap from being a high school kid to being a big leaguer," Donnelly noted. "[Mets third baseman] David Wright was drafted out of high school and spent four years in the minor leagues. That's about 1,600 at-bats. That’s the path Brandon has to follow. It’s gonna take him some time, but he’s going to be a dandy.”
"I'm up for the challenge and loving it so far," said Nimmo, who went 1-for-3 with two walks and two runs scored in Monday night's 6-2 victory at Vermont, helping the Cyclones complete a 3-3 road trip as they prepare to host the ValleyCats for the opener of a big three-game set Tuesday night at MCU Park.
What's not to love?
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This, That and the Other Thing: C Kevin Plawecki, the Mets' supplemental first-round pick in June, finally had a big night on the road Sunday in Vermont. The Purdue product, who is hitting .179 on the road as opposed to .362 on Coney Island this summer, belted a pair of solo homers in Brooklyn's 2-0 victory, backing a brilliant six-inning effort from All-Star RHP Hansel Robles in his first outing since flirting with a perfect game on Aug. 10 against the Lake Monsters. ... RHP Julian Hilario improved to 3-3 with Monday's triumph over Vermont, yielding five hits over six scoreless frames as Brooklyn lowered its league-best ERA to 2.53.
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In other Brooklyn-related baseball news, a Blue Devil has decided to become a Huskie.
Poly Prep pitching phenom Andrew Zapata, who hurled the Bay Ridge Country Day School to its second straight private school state championship this past season, is reportedly headed to the University of Connecticut following his upcoming senior campaign with the Blue Devils after committing to the Big East school.
“I chose UConn because it is a perfect fit for me and my family,” Zapata told the New York Post. “It has an excellent kinesiology program, which is what I want to study, and it has one of the best baseball programs around. Being only a few hours from campus, my family can easily come watch me play, and that means so much to me.”
The hard-throwing right-hander, who is expected to receive a near-full scholarship to UConn, also was considering Stanford, St. John's and LSU among a host of other top-flight programs.
“He’s the best pitcher in the city of New York,” Poly Prep coach Matt Roventini told the Eagle after watching Zapata toss a one-hitter in a 4-2 victory over Fieldston for the NYSAISS crown back in May. “Big-game pitchers pitch big in big games. He’s only going to get better and his work ethic will help him do that.”
August 21, 2012 - 2:21pm