Mets take OF from Wyoming with 13th pick in draft

It was the day before Mother’s Day and New York Mets executive

Paul DePodesta had a prospect to go see.

But this was no easy drive up the Pacific Coast Highway.

DePodesta had quite a haul in front of him – a flight from San

Diego to Denver, then a long drive to Wyoming to watch Brandon

Nimmo play a weekend doubleheader.

”’This one better be worth it,”’ his wife told him.

”Fortunately, it was,” DePodesta said.

The cash-strapped Mets went a long way to find their first-round

draft pick, a center fielder from Cheyenne, Wyo., who didn’t even

have a chance to play high school baseball.

Nimmo was selected No. 13 overall Monday night, capping an

uncommon rise for an out-of-nowhere prospect who could one day go

from country bumpkin to city slicker.

Wyoming does not have high school baseball and the state has

produced just two draft picks in the past decade, according to

Baseball America. The 18-year-old Nimmo plays American Legion ball

and was selected MVP at a showcase game at Wrigley Field last

August.

Still, finding Nimmo was no easy task. He worked out for major

league teams in Arizona this spring and became the first player

from Wyoming to be chosen in the first round.

The left-handed hitter said he idolized Ken Griffey Jr. growing

up. He is considered a fast runner with a good eye and plenty of

potential at the plate despite a unique schedule and limited

chances to play.

MLB Network said Nimmo practiced in a barn behind his house that

contains a batting cage and pitching machine.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound outfielder was batting .569 with two

homers and 34 RBIs in 22 American Legion games for Post 6 through

Sunday. He also had four triples, 13 doubles and 14 stolen bases.

The team’s schedule runs through the American Legion World Series,

which is Aug. 12-16 in Shelby, NC.

The Mets said Baseball America ranked Nimmo as the second-best

high school athlete in the draft, and the second-best pure high

school hitter.

Still, the pick is certainly a gamble by the Mets and their new

front-office regime, led by DePodesta, general manager Sandy

Alderson and amateur scouting director Chad MacDonald.

”I think we were ideally looking for a position player,” said

DePodesta, in his first year as New York’s vice president of player

development and amateur scouting. ”This draft is definitely deep

in college pitching, but there were only a few impact bats and if

we were going to get one of them we were going to take him

high.”

MacDonald said Nimmo brings the same risks as any high school

hitter who needs to prove he can hit better pitching at the

professional level. But DePodesta said Nimmo has faced good

competition in Wyoming that would be comparable to high schools in

South Carolina or other fertile areas.

”We’ve actually seen a lot of this player,” DePodesta said on

a conference call. ”They play some pretty good baseball up

there.”

MacDonald said Nimmo has an athletic body and is a ”speed-hit

combo” player with a ”really good swing” who can stay in center

field as a pro.

”A middle-of-the-field guy who can hit with power. That’s what

we like,” MacDonald said, adding that probably eight to 10 Mets

scouts saw Nimmo play over the course of the year. ”We had guys at

every game.

”We do think he has some advanced skills,” MacDonald added.

”We weren’t interested in making the safest pick. We were

interested in making the pick that had the best chance to make the

biggest impact.”

DePodesta stayed over in Wyoming that one night and then

traveled back home to San Diego on Mother’s Day. Obviously, he was

impressed with what he saw in Nimmo, who attended East High School

in Cheyenne.

Nimmo tore his right ACL playing football as a junior in 2009

and played with a brace on his knee most of the time last summer,

according to Baseball America.

”I think he has an advanced feel for the strike zone,”

DePodesta said. ”We’ll certainly be emotionally invested in this

draft.”

Next, the Mets need to sign Nimmo – and that might not be so

easy. The club’s owners are facing a $1 billion lawsuit because of

their business with Bernard Madoff, and Fred Wilpon told Sports

Illustrated recently that his team is ”bleeding cash” and could

lose up to $70 million this year.

Nimmo has committed to play college ball at Arkansas, a top

program.

”He’s passionate about playing,” DePodesta said. ”We’ll let

the negotiations play out and we’re confident he’ll be a New York

Met.”

With the 44th pick, the Mets selected right-hander Michael

Fulmer from Deer Creek High School in Oklahoma.