Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Captain In The Outfield

No, I don't mean the Mets should move David Wright to left field.  That title is referring to Captain Kirk, as in Nieuwenhuis.  With so many holes in the Mets lineup and such a tight budget the team has to find as many in-house fixes as possible.  Kirk Nieuwenhuis could be one of those if the Mets have him play centerfield to start the season.

He played over half a season in the big leagues this year before being sent back to AAA where a foot injury ultimately ended his season.  He hit .252 with 7 home runs in 91 games with the Mets.  Mediocre numbers that could be a lot worse if not for a hot start in the league.  The most startling number in Kirk's line is 98 strikeouts in those 91 games.  What's even more frightening, he didn't have any month where he had more games played than strikeouts.  In fact, he has only had two seasons, his first two in professional baseball, where he played more games than he had total strikeouts.  Obviously that is an issue, but David Wright, Ike Davis, and numerous other baseball players have fought through high-strikeout seasons and ultimately found success.

Let's look past the strikeouts for a second.  It isn't like he doesn't know how to hit.  In five minor league seasons he has an OPS of .817.  He has also hit as many as 43 doubles in a season.  His lowest batting average in a minor league season (excluding the 5 games he played with the Bisons this year) is .274.  The strikeouts are ugly but they're simply not the whole story of his offense.

But what about his defense?  One of the biggest problems early in the 2012 season was the rotating outfield and the lack of leadership in the outfield.  There was seemingly a different centerfielder every night which lead to confusion and a hesitance to take charge of the field.  However, Nieuwenhuis's presence changed that.  Balls stopped dropping between fielders because this centerfielder not only had the ability to cover a tremendous amount of ground, he used that ability on every play.  In an outfield that could have Jason Bay and Lucas Duda manning the corners, his aggressiveness would be more than welcomed.

Hopefully Kirk will come to Spring Training healthy, as he has suffered unfortunate injuries the last two years.  He can't work out the kinks if he can't play.  Kirk and Matt den Dekker have been the future of the outfield for a couple of years.  Kirk has always been ahead of den Dekker and still is, as Matt still hasn't found his way through all AAA pitching.  It's going to be hard to keep this future if Kirk doesn't stay healthy for a full season.  But once he does stay healthy he is going to make an impact.

Let's Go Mets!

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