Cowgill and Nieuwenhuis Continue to Struggle in Minors

collin-cowgillIt’s been mentioned a lot this season, but the big league outfield of the New York Mets has a lot to be desired. Heading into spring training last February, there was hope one of the unproven outfielders brought into camp would step up to the challenge.

Collin Cowgill did just that; he hit .303/.378/.591 in 66 spring training at-bats, and earned the honor of being the starting center fielder on opening day. Kirk Nieuwenhuis struggled to an awful .086/.220/.086 spring line, but his defense helped him to earn a roster spot. The organization hoped he’d find the magic in his bat from the first half of 2012. So far, neither one of them have performed well, and their slumps have followed them from the majors back down to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Cory Vaughn and Cesar Puello are having strong starts to 2013 for the Binghamton Mets. Since they’re still in Double-A, Mets fans probably won’t see them until at least September. For right now, Cowgill and Nieuwenhuis are the two best options the organization has when it comes to trying to find production in the outfield (along with Andrew Brown).

Cowgill carried his success from Port St. Lucie up north to Flushing for opening day against the San Diego Padres, going 2-for-5 with a grand slam, double, and four RBIs. From there, it went downhill, and found himself hitting .157/.173/.294 through 51 at-bats before getting demoted to Triple-A.

It didn’t take as long for Nieuwenhuis to get sent packing to fix his swing; he was demoted in favor of rookie Juan Lagares after hitting .125/.176/.188 in 13 games (16 ABs).

With both of them getting sent to Las Vegas to get back on track, 51s manager Wally Backman said they would each get significant playing time, and share duties in center field. Mets fans were hoping their bats would show some form of life in order to help the big league team, but it hasn’t happened yet. Here’s the results so far since getting sent down:

  • Collin Cowgill – .219/.306/.406, 3 HR, 10 RBI in 64 AB
  • kirk Nieuwenhuis – .198/.303/.349, 3 HR, 6 RBI in 86 AB

Needless to say, what they’ve done upon arriving to Vegas won’t help them to get a call back up to the Show anytime soon. It’s very discouraging to watch them continue struggling because they take one step forward and two steps back. In watching them play recently, they’ll put together a nice at-bat, ending in a hard-hit ball. Just when I think they turned the corner on offense, their following at-bat says the opposite.

Soon, Matt den Dekker will return to action after breaking his wrist in spring training. While he didn’t show much at the plate in spring training either, he’s someone the Mets haven’t tried yet in the outfield. If Cowgill and Nieuwenhuis continue their current lack of production, den Dekker will eventually leapfrog them on his way to the majors.

I’m a fan of both Cowgill and Nieuwenhuis, and it’s frustrating to watch them have such a tough time getting into a groove at the plate. They each play the game the way it should be played: hard. There is still time for them to turn things around and get their careers back on track. The opportunity to get back to the majors and play well enough to find a role on the team (whether it’s in the starting lineup or on the bench) is still available.

However, with players Vaughn, Puello, and den Dekker getting closer to being ready for their chance in the spotlight, time is running out. At the end of the day, the Mets are trying to figure out who has a future with the organization. The above three prospects still have one with New York, but if the two incumbent Vegas outfielders don’t show consistent signs of life soon, they will be on the outside looking in.

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