Nieuwenhuis has been scorching hot coming out of the gate and is now batting .371 for the season and sports an amazing .450 OBP and 1.050 OPS. At this point, Terry Collins has no choice but to run him out there every day. In fact, even against a decent lefty in Barry Zito on the mound on Friday, Collins ran him out there. And what did he do in reponse? Well, Nieuwenhuis just happened to hit his second home run of the year (going opposite field no less), while also making a magnificent diving catch late in the game.
All the things we thought we liked about Nieuwenhuis are coming to fruition. He is a heady, gutsy all-out type of outfielder, who is starting to become a fan favorite. Nieuwenhuis has done all that has been asked of him and then some. Nieuwenhuis seems to have a determined look about him, like “I belong here for good!”
While not that highly touted a prospect, it certainly seems as though Nieuwenhuis knows what he’s doing up here. He has demonstrated that he can hit and field. Best of all, Nieuwenhuis has a calmness to him and never seems to get rattled out there.
Whether he’s batting leadoff or at the bottom of the order, Nieuwenhuis has shown the right approach at the plate and seems to know what the situation calls for. Nieuwenhuis has not been pressing, but rather letting the game come to him.
Collins has said that once Torres is ready to come back, that he will not lose his job (although lately Collins is backtracking a bit saying he doesn’t know how this will play out). But if he continues at this pace, I think Collins’ hand will be forced into trotting Nieuwenhuis out there every day.
It’s not like the Mets have a lot invested in Torres. Torres was traded in the offseason when the Mets shipped Angel Pagan to the Giants, but the key piece in that deal was Ramon Ramirez, with Torres an added bonus.
While I’d still like to see what Torres is fully capable of, the Mets could be on to something here with Nieuwenhuis. Besides, most scouts, pundits, etc. all view Torres as nothing more than a fourth outfielder. Would it be such a bad thing if he went to the bench? Once Torres comes back you either have to commit to Nieuwenhuis as the starter or send him back to Buffalo. Any way you slice it Nieuwenhuis needs every day at-bats to continue his development.
The thing here is to give this some time and make sure Torres is 100 percent healed when ready to come back. Torres has not run the bases yet in his rehab. Given that, give Nieuwenhuis another two or three weeks and we should know if he can keep this up. A regression could come at any time for the rookie. If that happens, then it would a seamless transition for the Mets to put Torres back in the lineup.
For the time being, let’s continue to put Nieuwenhuis out there every day and see if he can seize hold of this opportunity. Nieuwenhuis has certainly at least earned that much.
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