One player who is really surprising me with his recent play is Kirk Nieuwenhuis. As I wrote last year on Mets Minors – Kirk was the forgotten man in the depth chart, a player whose star had fallen to the point where he didn’t even get a September call-up when the rosters expanded.
But here he is, back with the team since his exile in Las Vegas ended in June, and playing like the player we thought we had early in 2012. Since his recall, he’s appeared in 16 games, hitting .370 (10-for-27) with five doubles, one home run and five RBI. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but he doesn’t look lost like he did when he was with the major league team in 2013 and hit just .189 while striking out 32 times in 95 at-bats. He’s making a strong case for staying on the MLB roster as the fourth outfielder who won’t hurt you in the field and provides some left-handed punch off the bench.
He’s looking like a player who is realizing that his major league opportunity may pass him by if he doesn’t act now. He’ll be turning 27 next month and he’s at that age where the younger guys will pass right over him and he’ll be just another one of those career minor leaguers. In the last month, he’s making the most of that opportunity, and his stellar defensive play on Friday night to save a run with a throw to home plate was all hustle.
Despite being on the 40 man roster, Kirk wasn’t in the Mets plans last September. He didn’t make the opening day roster either as the Mets opted for Andrew Brown. It wasn’t until Juan Lagares went on the DL in mid-April that Kirk would get another big-league opportunity, but he was back in Vegas as soon as Lagares returned. When Eric Young, Jr. went on the DL in May, Kirk was bypassed in favor of Matt den Dekker.
However den Dekker batted just .156 in 49 plate appearances, and with Chris Young also struggling mightily, the Mets needed to get someone – anyone – that could help offensively. So on June 19th, den Dekker was demoted and a hot-hitting Nieuwenhuis got the call in what may be his very last opportunity to impress the Mets.
Here’s something impressive – the Mets are 9-0 when Nieuwenhuis is in the starting lineup.
A lot can happen between now and the end of the season, but for the time being, Kirk Nieuwenhuis is making a solid case to remain the fourth outfielder. One has to wonder – maybe he can become another key reserve outfielder like Danny Heep was, and man that fourth outfield spot for the Mets over the next several seasons. Time will tell.