- The 17-year-old from Tampa, Florida, started playing the sport in high school after being introduced to cricket during his annual visits to India with family.
For years, Florida teenager Arjun Nimmala spent more time on a cricket field in India than the travel baseball circuit. Now he’s projected to be a top-15 pick of this year’s MLB draft class which is set to take place in Seattle between July 9 and 11. A recent graduate of the Strawberry Crest High School outside of Tampa, the 17-year-old has committed to Florida State as a freshman starting this fall. This offseason, he trained with New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor, “who happens to be Nimmala’s favorite player,” according to ESPN. Lindor’s agent reportedly advised Nimmala ahead of the draft.
According to global sports content platform Sportskeeda, “scouts have been enamored” with Nimmala, who is “capable of driving out 40 home runs per season on account of a powerful swing.” At 6-foot-1, he moves” very lightly on his feet,” the website says, he has “often recorded exit velocities well in excess of 100 miles per hour.” The website notes that because of the young player’s “capabilities at the shortstop position lead many to draw comparisons to Minnesota Twins shortstop and former Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa.”
ESPN Baseball Insider Kiley McDaniel saw Nimmala play in April in a regular-season game for Strawberry Crest High School outside of Tampa, where “a couple dozen scouts came. One scout who saw Nimmala play weeks before McDaniel told him that he had “the most impressive pregame [combinations of] infield [practice] and batting practice I’ve ever seen from a high school player.”
Sports Illustrated notes that Nimmala is getting “rave reviews from scouts in private workouts and could be around for the Chicago Cubs in the first round.” The youngest of the prep position players, the young baseball player “has been wowing teams in private workouts, consistently posting the best exit velos and with probably the best shot to stick at shortstop of those players, as well,” the publication added.
However, baseball wasn’t Nimmala’s first choice; cricket was. He was introduced to India’s favorite sport, during his annual visits to visit relatives in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, according to ESPN. He was a batsman — when he tried bowling, it didn’t go well. “I’m horrible, I don’t get the form right,” he told ESPN about his bowling. “I’m just a hitter.” When asked by McDaniel if he was good enough to play cricket professionally, Nimmala replied that if he “really practiced to the point that the others did,” he thinks he would’ve been “pretty good at cricket.”
Last summer, his last year playing travel baseball, Nimmala realized he was good at the game. “I realized I was pretty good because I heard draft talk and it’s hard to keep away from that because things just get to you and people talk,” he told McDaniel. “Then I realized that there was a decent amount of attention, and that’s kind of when I realized that I had a good chance.” And although he was playing with the best players in the country, he remained humble, McDaniel wrote, and “considered himself a potential pro prospect at the latest time he could possibly think that.”
In his ESPN profile, McDaniel raves about the young prospect’s skills and lists factors that could favor him, like his age. Nimmala is nearly a year younger than most of the other players in his draft class. “Being young for the class is one of the strongest empirical indicators of future success for high school position players, which is why Nimmala allows scouts and executives to imagine almost any outcome.’ His inexperience works in his favor as well, McDaniel writes. “Nimmala missed all of those showcases full of middle schoolers and their dog-eat-dog travel parents in search of that elusive D-I offer — because as a freshman in high school, he and his family still weren’t aware any of it existed.” Nimmala told McDaniel that his parents are from India and “had no clue about the recruiting process.”
In a short time, Nimmala went from being late learner to “one of the earliest commitments in his class to training with his favorite MLB player,” as well as playing in front of the “heavy-hitter” executives and general managers coming to every game. “What I realized is that I should really not be thinking about that they’re here,” Nimmala told McDaniel. “I want to impress them and do as well as I can, but I’m playing for my team and for myself, not for them.”