Kirk Nieuwenhuis has had several chances to strut his stuff for the New York Mets over the past three years. Sometimes he’s looked good, sometimes he hasn’t looked good. He’s gone on hot streaks and cold streaks and has been plagued by strikeouts (leading some fans to add extra Ks to his first name on occasion). Well, he’s back up with the Mets, and he’s raking. He’s batting .314/.390/.629 in 40 plate appearances. He deserves to get more playing time for more than one reason.
First, he’s on a hot streak. Niewenhuis has shown streakiness in his 410 major league at bats, and it would make sense to take advantage of his current tear. The Mets have struggled to find consistent production out of left field, and Niewenhuis would fit perfectly in that corner. He’s also a very good defensive outfielder and would provide a complement to Juan Lagares in center and Curtis Granderson in right. But what about the other 800 outfielders the Mets have on their active roster?
Chris Young has been hitting better of late, but he’s still batting .199. He hit three homers in the course of two days a couple of weeks ago and now has a total of seven, which isn’t bad for a part-time player. But he’s done more harm than good so far. Eric Young brings an element of speed to the Mets when he’s in the lineup. He leads the team with 22 stolen bases but has yet to figure out how to steal first base. He’s batting .236 with a .319 on-base percentage this year. Bobby Abreu is having a fine season for the Mets. The 40-year-old is batting .275 with a .356 OBP. He doesn’t cover a lot of ground in the outfield, however, and certainly is not in the Mets’ future plans.
Eric Campbell is also in the mix, though he’s mostly serving as a platoon mate with Lucas Duda at first base. He also filled in for David Wright at third when the captain was on the shelf. Campbell can hit (.340/.379/.457) but doesn’t bring much value to the field. He’s also valuable as a pinch hitter, having gone 5-for-11 with two home runs in that role.
At age 26, now’s a good time to find out if Nieuwenhuis can play in the major leagues every day, or at least as a platoon partner with Chris Young or Campbell (both right-handed hitters). At the very least, the Mets should keep him in the lineup as long as his bat is still on fire.