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Future is Now for Kirk Nieuwenhuis

By Chuck Johnson ~ April 15th, 2012. Filed under: Digest Contributors, New York Mets.

We’re all likely familiar with the cliché’ “There’s no time like the present”, and the old worn out saying carries no more meaning today than when talking about the Mets’ outfield situation.

It’s not good.

But as with everything else, there’s room for improvement, and quite frankly, when talking about the 2012 Mets, it won’t take much.

After the Pagan/Torres trade with San Francisco, I remember reading a comment by an opposing scout which called out Torres by saying, “he’s the best fifth outfielder in baseball.”

I like Andres Torres. A switch hitting, 5’10″ 185 pound outfielder better known for his defense than his offense. Thirty years ago, that description was me.

Plus, he’s a good dude, having met him a couple of times when in Puerto Rico it wasn’t hard to like him and become a fan.

But the truth is, what the scout said is true.

Torres can play all three outfield positions. He’s a switch-hitter. He’s a good base runner and situational hitter. He’s a manager’s dream when considering double switch options. As a bench player, Torres is much more valuable to the Mets than as a starter.

Especially when considering who the Mets’ starters are on the corners. Jason Bay is passable defensively if only he could hit, and no matter how much Lucas Duda hits, it will never justify his defense.

Enter Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

The Mets’ third round pick in the 2008 draft, Nieuwenhuis is, aside from Brandon Nimmo, the only true centerfield prospect in the Mets’ system. Matt Den Dekker and Darrell Ceciliani are listed as centerfielders, but are org “fillers” at best. Juan Lagares is another outfield prospect with centerfield experience, but he’s playing left field in Buffalo this season, maybe as the eventual replacement for Bay.

Coming off a torn labrum in his non-throwing right shoulder suffered last June which limited him to just 53 games for Buffalo (in which he hit .298), Nieuwenhuis reported to spring training this year with a legitimate shot of winning a spot on the 25 man roster….and promptly got hurt.

Straining an oblique pretty early in camp prevented any spring training at all, but once healthy has done nothing to diminish his standing as being worthy of a spot.

And now with Torres on the DL with a calf strain and out at least until April 21st, now’s the time to give Kirk two weeks of everyday time in center to show the Mets’ organization not only that he’s healthy, but capable of handling the position everyday at the major league level.

And there is no better time than now to prove that. The Mets aren’t going anywhere, best case scenario this is a 70-75 win team. Andres Torres isn’t Andrew McCutchen, or even Angel Pagan. Three years from now Brandon Nimmo will be the Mets’ everyday centerfielder and number three hitter, and no one will even remember this conversation.

You can’t do any worse than what you have now, with Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda being regulars, so, what’s the problem with Nieuwenhuis playing every day?

I don’t see any.

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A life-long Yankee fan who counts among his fondest memories seeing “The Mick” play in person, Chuck is a long time member of SABR and the Minor League Alumni Association. A staff researcher for Retrosheet, and a former part-time scout with the Mariners, Chuck now works for the Milwaukee Brewers in their Spring Training Operations Office and holds a similar role in the offseason for the Arizona Fall League. Chuck's newest venture is as a staff writer for MLB.com's new minor league blog http://thefuturists.mlblogs.com, led by Senior Writer Jonathan Mayo. You can check him out there under user cjohns56 (same as Twitter), and on his soon to be launched personal website, www.mlbprospectpulse.com.

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15 Responses to Future is Now for Kirk Nieuwenhuis

  1. wasadeyo

    Do us all a favor and don’t write about the Mets. Your Yankee shillness comes shining through with lack of knowledge about the Mets farm system.

  2. LongTimeFan

    Other than stating the obvious insofar as Neiwenhuiss’s opportunity and Torres’s potential return in bench role, this post by Chuck Johnson is just another piece by a short-sighted, know-it-all blogger who waves his magic wand and believes he has Godly talents to predict the ceilings of seedlings and the current 6-2, 2012 Mets because he decrees so. For someone whose supposedly seen a lot of baseball – Mr. Johnson – I’m not impressed.

  3. Chuck

    Appreciate it guys, thanks for reading.

  4. Jesse

    This article was “filler” at best. Most fans read blogs for their insight and depth of knowledge on a particular team, you clearly have none of that. Other than the complete obvious in that Murphy can’t play ANY defense, there isn’t much here that looks even remotely accurate. Duda played 51 of 53 collegiate games in LF, he’s obviously playing out of position to get AB’s. And they both can hit. Seriously, a little homework next time to at least make it readable.

  5. Chuck

    It was readable, Jesse.

    Because you read it.


  6. Jesse

    But I hate myself for doing it.

  7. Chuck

    Oh, well. Too late now.

  8. Michael

    Chuck you are a pompous ass, 1st and last time reading your useless blog

  9. FreeBald

    When you say “Andres Torres isn’t Andrew McCutchen, or even Angel Pagan” I agree, but perhaps in a more positive way than one might imagine regarding Pagan.

    As seems quite obvious to all discussing it here, Torres is not “the answer” in CF for the Mets. Neither was Pagan, and in Torres the Mets have a player at least subjectively much more capable of filling a back up role than Pagan, who complained about playing RF, complained about batting leadoff, was a poor baserunner, and makes twice as much money as Torres.

    As the Mets phase new players into their OF over the coming years, Torres may still prove useful to the team. Pagan would not have, in my opinion, and sending him to another team was the right move.

  10. Chuck

    Thankyou, Michael

    FreeBald..you’re right, especially when considering Pagan’s “issues” were starting to impact the clubhouse.

    Moving him was absolutely the right move for the Mets.

  11. AC Wayne

    Not sure why a handful of commenters used this post to dispute your baseball acumen, nothing negative here from me…but when I saw this headline, it further reminded me of how off-base the so-called experts were in evaluating the Mets farm system under Omar Minaya…looking at the current roster, it’s full of home-grown players, Nieuwenhuis being one of them…w/Torres’ setback, it looks like the Mets have a problem they don’t mind having…when he does come back, Torres could be a perfect fit as a fill-in outfielder/bench player, we all know the Mets need depth

  12. Jesse

    Here’s why….

    Everyone who follows this team know that it wasn’t Pagan for Torres, it was Pagan for Ramon Ramirez. Torres was a throw in who the Mets knew was probably a downgrade offensively, but a better defensive CF’er. The whole point was Torres was a stop gap only, be it for ST, first week of the season, or the year.

    Also , yeah we get it Duda isn’t a GG Rf’er he’s a LF’er and will be once Bay is gone. That’s where your defensively challenged power hitter always plays.

    And of course the hail mary attempt. The 19 yr old, still learning to hit with a wooden bat in A ball, will be the staring Cf’er and 3 hitter in 3 years.

    the only thing he said that anyone who actually follow this team would agree with was that no one will remember this conversation. Yeah because this conversation/article was forgettable.

    However, we can all agree that Murphy would have to hit like the Babe to justify his defense.

  13. Chuck

    Thanks, ACWayne

  14. Raul

    I love these talk radio monkeys who criticize every article and offer nothing in return, because frankly, they don’t know anything that the Mad Dog or Michael Kay isn’t telling them.

  15. Babbit

    Seriously, Chuck, your readers are a$$holes. My condolences.

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