With the recent injury to New York Mets outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis that will keep him out roughly a week, there are opportunities for some of the other young Mets outfielders. With this most recent injury, Niewenhuis’ history if injuries, his struggles this spring, and the fact that Nieuwenhuis is not an established big leaguer, the centerfield position is wide open for the Mets, and ripe for the taking.
Collin Cowgill may be impacted the most. Heading into spring he was expected to platoon with Nieuwenhuis in centerfield, and his play so far suggests that he should definitely be able to fulfill that role. However, Cowgill may be able to handle a bigger role than expected and could prove to be the best centerfielder the Mets have in camp, meaning he could take over a larger part of the platoon or perhaps become the primary centerfielder.
With Nieuwenhuis struggling to hit this spring and on the shelf with an injury for the time being, Matt den Dekker could get an even longer look this spring than expected. Den Dekker is a brilliant defensive centerfielder and would give the Mets a big boost in that part of the department, especially with the defensively challenged Lucas Duda getting most of the time in left field. But in order to take advantage of the situation with Nieuwenhuis, den Dekker will have to prove he’s able to hit major league pitching. He did not put up good numbers the second half of the season in AAA last year, and has a history of striking out too much and struggling against lefties. Regardless of what Nieuwenhuis does, if den Dekker can prove to be an average major league hitter, his defense could make him the Mets starting centerfielder.
The wildcard in the Mets outfield this spring is Jordany Valdespin. With den Dekker likely needing more time in AAA, Valdespin may be the most likely to beat out Nieuwenhuis and platoon with Cowgill in centerfield. Valdespin is off to a hot start with the bat this spring and has the athleticism to play centerfield defensively, despite a lack of experience. If Valdespin is willing to draw walks and increase his on-base percentage, he could be a viable leadoff candidate for the Mets, which could help his case to break camp with the team, regardless of what happens with Nieuwenhuis.
Even if it’s not for long, the injury to Nieuwenhuis opens the door for a few other guys to state a case to be a part of the Mets outfield. So perhaps when Nieuwenhuis returns from his bone bruise, he’ll have some competition to deal with if he expects to be the Mets opening day centerfielder.