WASHINGTON — More than most players, Brandon Nimmo can understand the burden of expectations saddled on a former Mets first-round draft pick who will be arriving to Citi Field with the Mariners on Friday.
Jarred Kelenic owns a disappointing .140/.219/.291 slash line in 30 games after an underwhelming major-league stint last season, but Nimmo offered a reminder Thursday it’s still extremely early in the 22-year-old outfielder’s career.
A former first-round draft pick himself by the Mets, Nimmo was still 14 months away from his major league debut when he was at the same point as Kelenic in his development.
“I came up to the big leagues when I was 23 and I am not even close to the same player I was at that time,” Nimmo said. “I have learned so much in those years and I am sure [Kelenic] will too. Sometimes it just takes a little bit for a guy who is playing on the big league level to really figure out the ebbs and the flows of it.”
The Mets traded Kelenic before the 2019 season as the centerpiece of the deal that brought Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to Queens. It has been among the most dissected trades in Mets history, given Kelenic’s five-tool skillset and players acquired by former general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.
“It was a good deal for both sides,” Nimmo said. “Speaking for us, I know that Sugar [Diaz] has done really well for us. He’s a great closer. He’s come in, he’s shut the door for us and saved so many games for us. That is so hard to find nowadays. It was what we needed at the time and [the Mariners] obviously needed young talent. I think both sides ended up pretty well.”
Nimmo said the comparisons to Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. that Kelenic received in the minor leagues with the Mariners haven’t been beneficial. As somebody who was selected one spot ahead of former Marlins ace Jose Fernandez in the 2011 draft, Nimmo can empathize.
“There’s pressure that comes with being first-round picks for teams and I know all about that, hearing [from fans], ‘The Mets should have taken Jose Fernandez,’ ” Nimmo said. “I heard that the whole time coming up and even when I got into the big leagues. I know all about that, but [Kelenic] seems to be on a larger level: The next Ken Griffey of baseball.”