On Opening Day, the Mets appeared poised to start off the new campaign with a consistent outfield of Juan Lagares and their two offseason acquisitions, Chris Young and Curtis Granderson. However, since Young was scratched with a hamstring injury and started the season on the disabled list, the Mets outfield has been a revolving door.
While Granderson and Lagares merit playing every day at this point in the season, there are currently five men competing for at-bats in one spot of the lineup. Chris Young, Bobby Abreu, Eric Young Jr., Kirk Nieuwenhuis and even Eric Campbell have all shared sporadic playing time recently due to the inordinate number of outfielders on the major league roster.
I believe that Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ recent play merits extended consideration in left field. Eric Young Jr. is suited to be a platoon fourth outfielder, Campbell is a utility man and we know what Chris Young is at this point in his career.
While Bobby Abreu has been a pleasant surprise for the Mets this year, he would be better suited in a 4th outfielder/ pinch hitting role for a contending team right now. While I am not certain what kind of return, if any the Mets could get for the 40-year old Abreu, I believe both he and the team would be better served in moving him. Doing so would pave the way for younger players such as Kirk and EY to get more at-bats. I would advocate designating Chris Young for assignment for that exact same reason.
Kirk is a frustrating player to analyze. When he first came up in 2012 he batted .252 with 7 homers and 28 RBIs, but struck out way, and I mean WAY too much. He has an unusual swing that generates power in the lower part of the strike zone but is easily susceptible to a high fastball. He struck out in 34% of his ABs in 2012. Last year he struggled mightily as well, batting .189 in 47 games for the Mets.
Though it has been a small sample, in 19 games and 35 ABs this year with the team, Kirk is hitting .314 with 2 home runs, 5 doubles and 8 RBIs. Unfortunately, his strikeout rate remains very high, fanning in 37% of his ABs thus far.
Chances are, Kirk is not a longterm answer for the Mets in the outfield. His unorthodox swing is evidence of his incredibly athletic background and raw ability, but I am afraid he has come too far at this point in his baseball career to make the needed changes to reduce the massive whole that it comes with. However, in the meantime I am intrigued by the extra base hitting ability he can bring in the middle or even lower third of the lineup. Not to mention, he is a capable defensive outfielder who can play all three positions.
I am not advocating running Kirk out there every single day. Certainly against left handers I would rather see Eric Young Jr. in the lineup. However, I would like to see TC give Kirk the chance to make several starts in a row.
His start against Texas Sunday was only his third since being called up on June 20th. It was also his first start since June 28th in Pittsburgh. Nine games under .500 and with the All-Star break quickly approaching, I would prefer to see a 26-year old like Nieuwenhuis in the lineup on a daily basis over players like Chris Young and Bobby Abreu who have a limited future with this organization.
Ultimately, the logjam in the outfield is ridiculous and it needs to be resolved by the time the All-Star break comes to an end. Sandy should cut his losses with Chris Young, send Abreu to a team that is better suited for him at this point in his career and allow some of his younger talent the chance to get regular playing time. The revolving door in the outfield is nothing if not debilitating, and it needs to be brought to an end.