2011 MLB Draft Q&A: Brandon Nimmo

Born and raised in a state that does not have high school baseball, Brandon Nimmo has emerged as the rare, nationally recognized prospect from Wyoming. We sat down with the sweet swinging lefty to discuss baseball in the Cowboy State, the toughest pitcher he has faced, and his dream of playing Major League Baseball.

I will be running a new interview with one of the best MLB draft prospects 2011 has to offer each Sunday and Wednesday up until June, and you can click here to find an up to date archive of them all.

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Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Are you still 6'1", 185 lbs?

Brandon Nimmo: I'm right at about 6'2" with my shoes off. I think the last time we measured I was 6'1¾", so we just round up and say I'm 6'2" and my weight is about 185 lbs, yes.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You've gotten your recognition for baseball, but did you play any other sports?

Brandon Nimmo: Yes sir, I played football and I do indoor track in the winter to stay in shape. I loved football – my dad played football, my brother, and I've had a couple of cousins that went to CSU for it – so I really liked it a lot. My last year playing was my junior year. I was team captain and we were supposed to be not too bad, and the first game, second quarter, I blew my knee out. I was the slot receiver in our spread offense, caught a pass, ran upfield about 10 yards, tried to run over the safety, and he just went right through my legs and unfortunately my cleat was planted in the ground. So that was the end of football for me [laughs]. Indoor track is going on right now, and I just use that to stay in shape and compete a little bit. I played a little basketball when I was younger, but I wasn't very good – I wasn't much of a shooter – so I went with the sports where my speed could help me a little bit.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What events do you do?

Brandon Nimmo: I do the 55 meter, the 200 meter, the 400 meter, and the 4x400 relay. Mainly a sprinter, and that's about it.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is it correct that you have not played any high school baseball because your school does not have a team?

Brandon Nimmo: Yes, Wyoming doesn't have high school baseball, and I think it may be the same for South Dakota and Montana, but I'm not sure. When that cold front recently came through the country it was down to -15 degrees at one point. One thing about Cheyenne is that the wind blows a lot, and with the wind chill we got down to -47 degrees, so you don't want to be playing baseball at that point! [laughs]. So it stays cold here for a long time and we all joke that we don't even have a spring here, that it just goes from winter to summer in May. High school baseball would be tough here, and I think that's part of the reason why, because I'm not sure how many games we could actually get in, but I do play on a Legion team. That starts in April and last year we were 64-12, so we got 76 games in during the late spring and summer. So I do get to play a lot, but I miss out on the games that I'd play if we had a high school team.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: When was it that you realized you could possibly do something with baseball? When did you realize that you were kind of better than most guys and it could potentially be a part of your future?

Brandon Nimmo: For me it's kind of tough to say because we only go to like one national tournament when we're younger, so you don't really know how you rank up against the rest of the country. You kind of get a feel of how you stack up locally, and I don't know, I knew I was pretty good at the sport, but I didn't know how good, if you will. I've been with the guys on my team since I was 10 years old, and we have always been pushing each other to get better, so whenever someone does something the rest of us have to try and up that guy. That competition in town has always been pushing me, and I guess I was throwing a little bit harder and was the number one pitcher for our championship when we were little, plus I could hit anywhere in the order, but I never had, and still don't have, the feeling that I'm better than those guys – I just got a sense that I was ok at the sport. I guess when I realized that we're not too bad was when my brother Bryce went to college and played D-1. That made me think that if he could do it, I can do it, and that's when the doors opened for me to wonder about taking this past high school. I also went to the Tournament of Stars in the summer, and that's where I learned that I could compete against the best in the country, but I never really have felt at any point that I was way better than anyone. I've just been having fun and recently found out that I'm not too bad at the sport compared to everyone else in the U.S.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a top high school baseball prospect from the mountain timezone, especially the northern part?

Brandon Nimmo: The disadvantages are pretty obvious - we don't get to play year-round and we don't play as many games as the kids from Florida, Texas, or southern California. Out here when you start playing in front of scouts and stuff you're not in mid-season form because you've been cooped up in a basketball gym where you can only throw the ball so far – there's no long toss or anything – and there's not live pitching, just hitting in the cage, off the tee, or soft-toss. An advantage I know of for sure is that I get to play more than one sport; I can dip into every sport that I want and not have to focus on just one sport in in my high school career. I know they sometimes go to one sport in those other areas very seriously early on in. That's an advantage up here, and I think it's great because you don't get burnt out on anything, and more importantly you get to struggle. You get to have something you're not good at, and then you get to learn how to make yourself better. That can take you through some rough patches in baseball if you've learned elsewhere how to fight through something that you're not doing too well at. So that would be my advantage – you don't have to focus on one sport, you can be a three or four sport athlete, and I think that's great to broaden your horizons as a kid and start to refine your focus when you're older and see which one is your specialty. Another disadvantage would be the travel, but I think that actually can be an advantage in the long run. I think it just prepares you because from what I'm hearing from the pro scouts you have to travel on a lot of buses for a long time, and I'm used to that now because the closest spot is between 45 minutes and an hour away in Laramie! [laughs] Our state tournament last year was in Sheridan, and that was an 8 hour trip, so we are not new to bus rides at all, we've got ways of entertaining ourselves, and know how to conduct ourselves on all these long trips and stay ready for the games.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is your family originally from Wyoming?

Brandon Nimmo: I'm born and raised in Cheyenne, but my brother and sister were born in Ft. Collins, Colorado. My mom and dad are from La Junta, Colorado, a little, itty-bitty town about 60 miles south of Pueblo where they were farm kids and high school sweethearts. My dad went and wrestled at a junior college and my mom went to business school, and after blowing his knee out a few times wrestling my dad ended up at CSU where he took the path to become an accountant. He's now a partner in his business, and that's what ended up moving us to Cheyenne 17-18 years ago.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Your brother played at Nebraska – was he there with Joba Chamberlain?

Brandon Nimmo: Yes, he played centerfield at Nebraska, was there for four years, and was part of the College World Series in '05. He was on that team his freshman year with Joba, Alex Gordon, Brian Duensing - he knows all of those guys. He didn't start then, but he had a lot of fun getting to experience it. He had a great time at Nebraska and opened up a lot of doors and opportunities for me I think, and I'm very grateful for that.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How much do you think about the draft coming up in June?

Brandon Nimmo: It's exciting. As a little kid you always dream about getting drafted, going through the system, and making it to the Major Leagues, so when those dreams start to become a little more realistic it is very exciting. But at the same time, you try not to think about it too much; you don't create any expectations because of how unpredictable the draft is. The way I approach it is that right now I have a signed letter to Arkansas, and as far as I know I'm going to Arkansas. The draft right now is the cherry on top – if it presents itself that's awesome but it's the not my true focus. It's something to use as motivation on those days where you're dragging a little and you can ask yourself "what's going to set you apart from the 900 other kids who are also in this position? What are you going to do to make yourself better today? What are you going to do to make yourself a 1st rounder?" So I use it as a motivational tool, I guess. It's on my mind, but not too much, and it's still surreal at this point. I'm just having fun with it all right now.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: When you do allow yourself to dream of making it big at the ML level, what is the image you get in your mind?

Brandon Nimmo: [laughs] Well, I think when any kid dreams about being in the Major Leagues you dream about being the best there is at what you do, becoming a hall of famer, being talked about as one of the best that ever played, and just all of those good things that people can say about someone as a player. I think that's what I dream about when I think about making it, that I'll make an impact and be a real source of entertainment for the people who follow my career. It's surreal that there's a chance that I could eventually get paid to do what I love to do. Someone once said "you never work a day in your life if you love what you do," and I love baseball, so if I could make a living out of doing what I love, it would be absolutely ridiculous and I can't believe someone would actually let me do it. But for the dream you picture yourself as being one of the best, and I think if you're not picturing that you're headed to the wrong place. You should always expect the best out of yourself, and the sky is the limit, but after you're done dreaming you need to make sure you keep your feet on the ground, work hard, and stay focused.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Being in Wyoming you probably don't have the same parade of area scouts as in other parts of the country, but how many teams have you heard from so far?

Brandon Nimmo: We've heard from about 24 to 27 teams. Every team has communicated with me somehow, and we've has around 20 teams in for a visit. It's only about three teams that haven't come in or done the lab rat thing on me somehow [laughs].

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Were the Yankees one of the teams that has communicated with you?

Brandon Nimmo: Yeah, definitely. I've talked with the four corners scout, they came in, and everything was good.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is your goal when you are at the plate? Are you looking to hit the ball in the air as hard as you possibly can? Do you try to put the ball on the ground and beat out hits? What kind of hitter would you describe yourself as?

Brandon Nimmo: When I get up there I just want to hit the ball hard, solid, and get a line drive out of it. That's all I focus on every time up: make good contact and hit a line drive. Power is not something that I ever try to put into my approach. I can hit the ball out, but it just happens – I rarely try to hit a homerun, and when they come they're normally accidents. I'm more of a doubles and triples kind of guy who tries to get the ball in play and use some of my speed to get me around the bases. I try and stay inside the ball and hit the gaps a lot, particularly left centerfield. I feel that good hitters use all fields, so I try to make good contact when I'm up there and line the ball both the other way and to my pull side. I don't get upset if I hit it hard for an out because I like to focus on staying on top of the things that I can control at the plate, and that is my swing path to the ball and my pitch selection .

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Speaking about pitch selection, how disciplined are you? Can you hit anything that you can reach, or do you wait for a very specific pitch?

Brandon Nimmo: I try and be aggressive on good pitches, so if it's not a good pitch then I'll let it go, but at the same time I try not to let the good ones go. Some days I'll hit every first pitch that I see because they were pitchers that I was looking for or were just left up, but I also walked something like 60 times this past year, so if it's not in the zone I'll let it go.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So you do not have a problem taking your walks then?

Brandon Nimmo: Oh no, walks are a very positive thing. If I can get on first base any way at all it's a positive thing, because there are a lot of great things that can happen once I get on first base.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What one thing would you say is your best attribute as a hitter?

Brandon Nimmo: I would say that I'm pretty good with the strikezone, knowing what's a strike and what's a ball, and I'm usually pretty good at picking up pitches out of the pitcher's hand, but it's tough to say what my best attribute is – I just try to barrel the ball up, so maybe my best skill is that I make good contact. That's what I try and do every time up; just somehow, someway put the ball on the barrel. That would be my strong suit right now, to consistently make good contact.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You mentioned speed a little bit earlier, so what role does it play in your game?

Brandon Nimmo: It's huge. Sometimes if you're going through a bad streak a bunt can help break you out. What speed does is it gives you the ability to just put the ball in play and put pressure on the defense, so I try and use it as much as possible. Last year it was down a little bit because I just had surgery on my knee so I didn't get to use it as much as I would have liked, but stealing bases is something that I'm focused on getting better at. I'm good enough right now, but I need to get a lot better with my jumps and everything if I'm going to be able to run at the upper levels. So speed is going to be a big part of my game, I hope. I'm going to try and steal bases, lay down a bunt every once in a while, put pressure on the defense, and then in the outfield use it to chase down some balls that maybe some other people couldn't get to. So it's huge for me, I love my speed, and speed never slumps as they say.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What's the fastest 60 you have clocked?

Brandon Nimmo: I ran a 6.54 in Arizona in October, and that was the first time after getting my brace off after surgery.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Do you think you have gotten faster since then as you continue to heal up?

Brandon Nimmo: [laughs] Right now in track I'm a little clumsy with the blocks, so if I could get them down I might have a shot if I ran it again. The time isn't showing it, but I feel like I'm getting faster, and I just feel like if I stood in my base-stealing stance that I could actually be faster out of the blocks than if I got down on them. I do feel like my legs are getting back though, I'm squatting more now than I was before the surgery, and the doctor said that by a year and a half, which is in March, that I'll be close to 100%.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is your outward personality on the field?

Brandon Nimmo: I'm really competitive and it shows on the field. I try to stay even-keeled, but if the game is really close and we do something good, I will be the first one to hop out of the dugout and congratulate whoever made the big play or got the big hit. I get really competitive, so I play with some emotion but generally try and stay even-keeled; not let things affect me. But every once in a while in a close game my emotions will rise and I'll get pretty competitive, my outward personality will definitely reflect what's going on in the game at that point. I always play hard though, and I try to model my game after Troy Tulowitzki because if you watch him every day he never lets up, and I love that. So I try and have fun out there, but also focus on giving my all in everything I do. Out in the field I'm always yelling at our pitcher, yeah I know I'm 200 feet away from him in centerfield, but I'm still yelling encouragements, hoping he can hear me.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I was wondering what team a kid growing up in Wyoming would root for, but with you a huge fan of Tulo and also having family roots in Colorado is it safe to assume you're a Rockies fan?

Brandon Nimmo: Well, we are a part of the Rockies regional fanbase here in Cheyenne; most of us are Rockies fans because it's the nearest park to us – it's only a two hour drive to Denver to go watch the games. So I love to go down to Coors and watch a game, and Tulo is definitely one of my favorite players because he plays the game hard all the time. With his competitiveness I see some of myself in him, so I try and model myself after everything he does right, and he does a lot of things right. He has all the ability in the world, but he doesn't take anything for granted. But with the Rockies, yeah we go and watch them. With my dad being from Colorado he has been a Rockies fan ever since I can remember, so in the summertimes at 7:00 at night we're usually watching their games on FOX.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If you could steal any single skill from anyone else in your draft class, whose would it be and why?

Brandon Nimmo: I've never been asked that one before! Let's see…that's tough. I would love to have Lance McCullers arm; he can absolutely huck the ball, but he's not even in my draft class, he's 2012! I faced him at the Under Armour game, and that kind of arm is something special that is only God-given. For my class though, I'd have to say Shon Carson's speed. I've never seen a guy that fast in my life before. I remember him hitting a ball right to the third baseman, who was a good third baseman, he fielded it cleanly, fired to first, and Shon was safe. Then he stole second, then he stole third. When you have that kind of speed, boy is it hard to get you out. I think he ran his 40 in 4.38 for football, so for me I'd steal that speed. I saw it in action, and it is just ridiculous.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who is the toughest pitcher you have faced so far?

Brandon Nimmo: The toughest pitcher I've faced so far is Parker French, who I think is going to to the University of Texas. It was my second day at the Tournament of Stars, we were in a close game, and what stood out to me was that he was a very good pitcher. I faced a few guys that were throwers, hitting 96-98 MPH, and that's tough to hit, but the best pitcher I faced is probably Parker. He diced me up, man. This was my second day of facing 90+ MPH consistently when I get up to the plate to face him. He showed me his fastball on the outside corner, and I swung and missed. Then he showed me his changeup, which he made me look like a fool with – I mean, it looked just like his fastball out of his hand, so after the first fastball I was like "I'm not letting you get this by me twice," and then the bottom just fell out of it. Then he showed me a 93 MPH fastball on the inside corner that just froze me. I kind of just thought "oh, wow." I told myself that I couldn't let it happen again the next time up, so in my second at bat he showed me another changeup which made me look like a fool again, then a slider in the dirt, and another fastball that I fouled off. Lo and behold, he then threw me another fastball on the inside black and froze me again. I was like "gosh dang, you barely got your bat off your shoulder!" He just diced me up. He was going in and out, mixing his pitchers, putting them right where he wanted, working the black, and that is just really tough to hit. I have to tip my hat to him for that. It wasn't fun at the time, but looking back at it now it was fun to experience that kind of at bat, to have faced that kind of quality stuff.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If the contract and the situation are right, is playing professionally out of high school something that interests you?

Brandon Nimmo: Well yeah, of course you're interested in it. It's the first step towards the ultimate dream of playing in the Major Leagues, so yeah, it interests me a lot and it's a big deal because not that many people get to go through this. I just feel blessed to be able to have this experience – just being able to have you ask me that question – "if the contract is right, will you go?" is special. I guess if everything goes right it's going to be very hard to say no, but like I said earlier all I can count on is going to Arkansas right now, and that is totally fine with me. I went down there, I saw how great it is, I love the coaches, and I love the players that I'm going to be with, so the draft is a possibility if it's perfect, but Arkansas would be a lot to give up.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Being 17 years old, how do you deal with the pressure that comes along with these two amazing opportunities you have in front of you? How do you balance that pressure with just trying to stay grounded and be a normal high school teenager, when you clearly don't have a normal high school teenager's opportunities?

Brandon Nimmo: That's what I've got my parents for! They make sure I stay down to earth, and they'll be sure to smack me if I ever start getting a big head. I have a great support system for the exact reason you mentioned: to make sure that I'm still a normal 17 year old kid going through high school. There is a very small part of my life that is abnormal, and that is baseball. The rest of my life is very normal where I've got good buddies that don't treat me any different. I try to keep baseball in one part of my life, and then keep everything else in the other part so you don't get all caught up in yourself because of success you may have in baseball. You try to stay humble through it all and make sure baseball stays on the baseball field, and then you keep your social life and schoolwork separate from that. I think that I am very, very blessed to have this opportunity, because I either get to go play in the SEC in front of 10,000 fans, go to school, and have a great time in warm weather, or I get to get drafted and, if the contract is right, I get to start my dream of being a Major League baseball player. I can't tell you how blessed I feel to be doing this, and how I know I don't deserve any of it [laughs]. That's honestly what it feels like, and I often say to myself "wow, this is ridiculous," because of what I've been given. The bottom line is that I try to keep my social life and academics separate from that, and only when I step on the baseball field can I be "that guy who's got it all going for him," as some people say. [laughs]

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