New York Mets Lack Options At Leadoff Spot
When the New York Mets play their first spring training game today against the Washington Nationals, Mets outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis will be in the leadoff spot. Mets manager Terry Collins is giving Nieuwenhuis the first chance to lay claim to a spot that is both wide open and a great weakness for the Mets this year.
Collins views Nieuwenhuis as the best possible option, at least for now. Nieuwenhuis received close to 300 at bats in the majors last year, but struggled mightily after a strong start to the season. He was eventually sent to AAA, where he soon suffered a plantar fascia injury, which kept him off the field for the rest of the season. His on-base percentage and his strikeout rate from his time with the Mets last year is far from what is acceptable for a leadoff hitter. He also lacks the kind of speed that’s preferable from the leadoff spot. There’s also the matter of Nieuwenhuis playing everyday, which he won’t if he continues to struggle against left-handed pitching, and obviously he won’t be batting leadoff if he isn’t in the lineup.
The other option Collins is likely to go with at the leadoff spot this spring is shortstop Ruben Tejada, who was forced into that role for much of last year. Tejada has even less speed at the leadoff spot than Nieuwenhuis. His on-base percentage was also too low last year to give the Mets a good option to hit leadoff. Tejada has more big league experience and is a more consistent hitter than Nieuwenhuis, but he is far from the ideal leadoff candidate; although, being able to move Nieuwenhuis down in the lineup could benefit him and the rest of the lineup.
Outside of Nieuwenhuis and Tejada, the only other possible candidates for the leadoff spot are Collin Cowgill, who may end up platooning with Nieuwenhuis in centerfield, Mike Baxter, who may not be a full-time play this year, Daniel Murphy, who is much better in the second or third spots in the lineup and Jordany Valdespin, who doesn’t have a strong on-base percentage and probably won’t make the opening day roster.
However you look at it, the Mets prospects at the leadoff position are bleak. It’s a void that could have been filled adequately by signing Michael Bourn, which the Mets failed to do. Now the Mets are left trying to find the best on a bad list of candidates to put at the top of their lineup, a problem they’re likely to have all year.