When the New York Mets finalized their opening-day roster, one of the biggest surprises was the presence of outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Not only is Nieuwenhuis undeserving of a spot on the roster and in need of more seasoning at Triple-A, but also his presence on the team is unnecessary and could create roster issues for the team at some point down the line.
First of all, Nieuwenhuis had just three hits in 35 at-bats during Spring Training, giving him an average of .086. He missed nearly three weeks of action due to a knee injury, which limited his at-bats; even when he was healthy, he didn’t perform well.
Nieuwenhuis is nowhere near the caliber of player that should be able to win a job without earning it during Spring Training, and with just three hits, he obviously didn’t come close to deserving a spot. Moreover, after all the time he has missed due to injury over the past few seasons, he could use more seasoning at Triple-A.
The only reason Nieuwenhuis is on the Mets roster is his defense. Collin Cowgill has won the job as the Mets starting center fielder, and deservedly so, which will limit the playing time he will get. The only playing time he is certain to get this season will be as a defensive replacement late in games for starting left fielder Lucas Duda.
The Mets could easily use either Jordany Valdespin or Mike Baxter as a late-inning replacement for Duda, which would allow them to send Nieuwenhuis to the minors, where he’d get regular playing time.
Although Nieuwenhuis is a great defensive player, if that’s his only role, he’s not needed on the team. The Mets would be better off sending him to Triple-A to improve his hitting so that he would be able to handle a bigger role later in the season.
The presence of Nieuwenhuis on the roster comes at the expense of shortstop Omar Quintanilla. Without Quintanilla, the Mets will have to rely on either Valdespin or Justin Turner to be Ruben Tejada’s backup at shortstop.
Having a sure-handed defender like Quintanilla as a backup at shortstop is more important than having a defensive replacement for Duda, and the defensive options in left field without Nieuwenhuis are far better than the options at shortstop without Quintanilla.
Nieuwenhuis making the roster for opening day is a small issue, but it’s a problem that the Mets need to fix. He may be somewhat useful to the team at this point, but he did not earn his roster spot, and he should not be in the big leagues at this point in time.