Few would deny that the arrival of 20-year-old Mike Trout and 19-year-old Bryce Harper to the Major Leagues this season has been good for the game of baseball.
Brooklyn's Brandon Nimmo, however, is about five months younger than Harper and several rungs lower on baseball's developmental ladder, which means that the success of his peers can occasionally require him to temper expectations among his team's fan base.
"At Cyclones games, you'll get some people who say, 'Hey, you'll be up there in a year' or 'When are you going to get up there?'" said Nimmo with a smile. "You tell them, hey, realistically, if I stay healthy, three or four years with being a high school guy is a really good number to shoot for. And people can't believe that Harper's 19 and Trout's 20 -- they just look like men out there.
"So yeah, you get those comparisons, but you've got to bring them back to reality and say, 'Those guys are really special.' And you are too, you've got to have that confidence and everything, but there is a reality check."
Nimmo's reality check came early this season in the form of a slump that persisted for several weeks. An 0-for-3 day at the plate on July 12 left him with a .188 batting average after 23 games.
Such struggles are difficult for the 19-year-old outfielder from Wyoming who ranks as the fourth-best prospect in the Mets organization, but Nimmo already has a strong support system in place to help him when things aren't going well. His older brother, Bryce, had a successful four-year career at the University of Nebraska, hitting .266 with six home runs, 80 RBIs and 42 stolen bases in 208 games for the Cornhuskers from 2005-08.
It was the way Bryce dealt with adversity, though, that stuck with Brandon, who would often make the seven- or eight-hour trip from Wyoming to Nebraska to see his brother play.
"He's gone through just about everything that baseball can throw at you, failure-wise, so we always talked about how Bryce was kind of the guinea pig for us with high-level baseball and learning what you have to do to put the past behind you," said Nimmo. "Anything that I experience, he's been through it.
"I call him, I call my dad, and that support system really helps with putting the past behind you, having someone to vent to," said Nimmo. "That's really key for me. I need 10 minutes to vent and then it's out of the system. We don't talk about it anymore."
The 13th overall pick by the Mets in last year's First-Year Player Draft, Nimmo overcame his early struggles and posted four consecutive multi-hit games. By July 18, he had raised his average to .250.
Another slump dropped him back down to .221 by July 28, but again he responded, putting together a seven-game hitting streak that included five more contests with multiple hits. He's batting .264 with three home runs and 25 RBIs for the season but hasn't played since Aug. 5 after being hit in the shoulder by a pitch from Auburn's Brett Mooneyham.
While Nimmo is anxious to get back on the field and continue working toward his ultimate goal of reaching the Majors, he tries to remember what he tells those fans who expect to see him patrolling center field for the Mets in the near future: the road to the Majors is a long and tough one, filled with twists and turns that will test even the most talented players.
"There's going to be weeks and months of me adjusting to the game, and then after that it gets better," he said. "That's kind of what's been showing, the pattern for me so far, but there are a lot of hard times. It's hard because you want to get in there and succeed right away, but this is a game of failure and it really shows it to you right away."
Failure to launch: Since the Staten Island Yankees won the first of the team's six league titles in 2000, the worst record for a defending champion belongs to the 2003 Baby Bombers, who followed up a 48-26 record and postseason sweeps of Auburn and Oneonta with a 29-43 mark. This season's Yankees are mounting a challenge to that mark, with a 16-33 record through Wednesday. Included in that was an 11-game losing streak that ended Wednesday, the longest skid for any defending champion since at least 2005.
Back in the NYPL: Mets pitcher Johan Santana made a rehab appearance with the Brooklyn Cyclones on Sunday, allowing one hit and recording three strikeouts in three innings. It was Santana's first appearance in the NYPL since 1998, when he pitched in an Auburn Doubledays rotation that also included future Major Leaguers Tim Redding and Roy Oswalt. Auburn was affiliated with the Houston Astros at the time.
Baby bird takes flight: Kevin Gausman, the fourth overall pick in this year's Draft by Baltimore, made his professional debut with three perfect innings with Aberdeen on Monday. He is the highest of the 10 first-round selections from the 2012 First-Year Player Draft that have appeared in the NYPL this season.