He's the most underappreciated hitter in decades -- and he plays in NY!

Mets outfielder Nimmo has never made an All-Star team or placed in major awards voting

July 10th, 2024

For most of the past eight seasons, has been one of the more reliable and productive players in the Majors. You don’t have to just take our word for it, of course: By FanGraphs' version of Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Nimmo ranks eighth among all outfielders between 2018 (his first full season as a Met) and today, right between Christian Yelich and George Springer.

The Mets know it, too, valuing his contributions highly enough that they made sure to retain him with an eight-year, $162 million extension following the 2022 season. So far in 2024, he’s having pretty much the same season he has every year, which is to say “about 30% better than the league-average hitter,” even if that’s hard for many to see because of a .252 batting average, his lowest since 2019.

He’s also – and we can prove this – coming up on being the owner of a title no one actually wants: the most underappreciated player of the post-war era.

Nimmo, despite having another strong season, didn’t make the 2024 NL All-Star team, just as he didn’t in each previous year of his career. In what's been an extremely down year for NL outfielders – thanks in part to long-time stars Mookie Betts, Juan Soto and Ronald Acuña Jr. not being options for various reasons – the fans selected Yelich, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Jurickson Profar as starters. The players voted in Teoscar Hernández and Bryan Reynolds as backups. Tatis, out with a leg injury, was then replaced by Giants rookie Heliot Ramos by the league office.

For Nimmo, it doesn’t stop there. He’s never won a Silver Slugger, or a Gold Glove, despite being graded as a positive fielder, +19 Outs Above Average for his career, per Statcast. He didn’t rate in the 2017 NL Rookie of the Year balloting, and he’s never received even one single down-ballot vote for Most Valuable Player, despite a pair of 5-WAR seasons (2018 and 2022) and an MVP voting list that regularly includes 20-plus players.

In fact, if you were to look at the awards section of Nimmo’s Baseball Savant page, you’ll see a handful of Minor League achievements, and you’ll see that he’s a three-time winner of the “Heart and Hustle” Award, given to a player on each team who “embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game,” and you’ll see that he even once won a “Play of the Week” award, for robbing Justin Turner of a home run back in 2022 ... and that's it.

Brandon Nimmo's awards cabinet is shockingly sparse.

It implies a career without distinction, or recognition. It implies his contributions are not valued by players, coaches, fans or media, all of whom have a hand in various ways in selecting All-Stars and award winners.

We know better. Teams, obviously, don’t hand out $162 million contracts to non-valued players. But what does it mean to not have a single major award placement on the back of your baseball card? Let’s find out.

Since the first All-Star Game in 1933, there have been more than 5,600 placements to the team, with the legendary Henry Aaron having earned the most such appearances, 25. There have been nearly 1,200 Gold Glove winners (since 1957), and nearly 800 Silver Sluggers (since 1980). Ever since Jackie Robinson won the first modern Rookie of the Year in 1947, there have been 942 players to get at least some support in the balloting.

Throw in the more than 5,000 times a player has been listed on a Most Valuable Player ballot (since 1931) – even if it’s just a single lower-ballot appearance, like Oakland’s Billy North showing up with a lone 29th-place finish in the 1973 AL MVP voting – and we’re talking nearly 14,000 combinations of player and award.

None of which, not a single one, reads Brandon Nimmo.

Compare that to legends like Willie Mays (51 times a winner or vote-getter on one of these awards, the most ever, despite predating all of the Silver Slugger and some of the Gold Glove), or modern superstars like Mike Trout (31 times). Compare it to similarly valuable contemporaries like Springer (10 times), Matt Kemp (9 times), Cody Bellinger (9 times) or Matt Chapman (7 times), or even long-ago players you’ve never heard of like Scot Thompson, José Valdivielso, or Jake Wood (1 time apiece).

If we rank every position player by FanGraphs WAR, from 1947 on, you’ll get Barry Bonds (50 times named on one of these awards) on top, followed by Mays, Aaron (48 times), Alex Rodriguez (41 times), and so on, all the way down the list until you get to Nimmo’s 25.3 WAR down at 464th, right around Jeromy Burnitz (4 times) and Brian Dozier (5 times).

If we remove every single player who had even one appearance on an award ballot (like David DeJesus, sixth in the 2004 AL Rookie of the Year, or Dave Magadan, 22nd in the 1990 NL MVP, or even Valdivielso, a strong fielder who finished 24th in the 1955 AL MVP vote despite hitting .221 for the 101-loss Senators), we’re left with this surprisingly interesting list of surprisingly useful position players who, surprisingly, never got the credit for it.

Most career WAR without an award placement, 1947-present

  • 31.3 Bob Bailey (1962-78)
  • 27.7 Rick Dempsey (1969-93)
  • 25.3 Nimmo (2016-pres.) ←
  • 24.1 B.J. Upton (2004-16)
  • 22.4 Randy Velarde (1987-2002)
  • 22.3 Juan Uribe (2001-16)
  • 22.2 Casey Blake (1999-2011)
  • 22.2 David Ross (2002-16)
  • 21.1 Don Slaught (1982-97)

[Position players. Awards included: MVP, ROY, GG, SS, ASG]

So: Does it feel like Nimmo never gets the credit he deserves? The numbers would back you up. You may not remember Bailey, who put up a massive .287/.407/.597 (1.004 OPS) and 28 homers for the 1970 Expos without garnering so much as even a top-30 MVP vote, but Nimmo could catch him by the end of the 2025 season, given health, production, and a few more months of not being recognized. (We’re very excited by the one single 10th-place MVP vote Nimmo is sure to receive now in 2024.)

If we did this on the pitching side, and used Cy Young placements instead of Silver Sluggers, then the true all-time least appreciated player was long-time knuckleballer Tom Candiotti, who piled up 38.9 WAR across more than 2,700 innings without even the slightest piece of recognition, but we're talking about hitters today.

So what, specifically, about Nimmo is it that keeps him from getting love? It’s primarily about being consistent over flashy, being reliable over being loud, about “being good at a lot of things, not spectacular at any one thing,” about new metrics vs. the old, and about the star-studded outfielders that roamed the National League and took up All-Star spots, at least prior to 2024. He’s not lighting up any Statcast leaderboards with sky-high exit velocity marks or rocket-armed throws, at least not in the way that sets social media aflame.

Nimmo has only once hit 20 homers, and never even 25, nor slugged .500; it's hard to win a Silver Slugger that way. He’s a good fielder but rarely a spectacular one; far less valuable hitters and players have at least won Gold Gloves thanks to highlight-reel catches alone. There wasn’t really any argument for him to place in the Rookie of the Year in 2017, because he spent time on the injured list twice and took only 215 plate appearances. He’s never hit even .290 or driven in 70 runs – don’t mind that about 75% of his career starts have come at the top of the order – which is hard to gain attention among older-school players or voters.

But because he gets on base, and contributes solid defense, and good-enough-if-not-quite-elite power, Nimmo was worth 5.5 WAR in 2022, and 4.2 in 2023, and he’s likely to end up with around the same total in 2024. Over those three years, he’s something like the 15th-most valuable position player in the game, in the same range as Austin Riley or Corey Seager. Riley, for what it’s worth, has seen his name seven times among these awards. For Seager, it’s a dozen.

For Nimmo, it’s zero. There hasn’t been a position player in decades who has offered this much value while earning this little recognition. How much longer can that last?