- Ranked 11th on the MLB Pipeline’s Draft prospect rankings, the 17-year-old Nimmala is the first draftee from Strawberry Crest High School in Florida.
Florida teenager Arjun Nimmala has been drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays during Major League Baseball’s first round over the weekend. The 17-year-old Nimmala is the first draftee from Strawberry Crest High School in Florida. According to mlb.com, the official site of Major League Baseball, his selection was “all about projection.” Ranked 11th on the MLB Pipeline’s Draft prospect rankings, mlb.com notes that “Blue Jays thrilled he was available at No. 20.”
Speaking of Nimmala’s selection, Blue Jays’ director of amateur scouting Shane Farrell described him as “an overall tool package, combined with the age and overall upside of the player.” Nimmala is nearly a year younger than most of the other players in his draft class. “The power, the arm strength, reactions defensively, playing at a premium position,” Farrell said. “That all makes him a really exciting player and somebody I’m really happy to get into the farm system.”
The 20th pick comes with “an approximate slot value of $3.75 million, The Athletic noted.
The 6-foot-1 player describes himself as a “patient-aggressive” hitter at the plate who has plus raw power with the ability to drive the ball to all fields. His “athleticism and instincts at shortstop should give him every opportunity to stick there long-term, but his offensive upside is what has scouts most excited,” mlb.com said.
MLB said the young man “joins the Blue Jays at an important time for this club’s farm system. In the coming weeks — and surely the coming two or three years — the Blue Jays will lean on their prospect depth in trades as they look to win with their talented core.”
While Nimmala is the first Indian American teenager drafted in the first round and could become the first to play in an MLB game, Kumar Rocker was the first in both the 2021 and 2022 drafts. The 23-year-old son of a football coach and an Indian American mother, Rocker was picked by the Texas Rangers last year. In 2021, he was the first-round pick of the New York Mets but went unsigned due to injury concerns. However, will reportedly miss the entire season and likely most of 2024., because of an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction colloquially known as Tommy John surgery.
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.”
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 ESPN. “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.”
He told ESPN that his parents are from India and “had no clue about the recruiting process.” His father, Balu, first came to the U.S. from Vijayawada in Andhra, in 2001. By the time Arjun was born in 2005, he, Balu and his mother, Neeru, were living in Florida. Baseball was new to them, but as their son embraced the sport, so did his family.
In a short time, he went from being a 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 ESPN. “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.”