Next up in our projection series is Kirk Nieuwenhuis. The CF job is Nieuwenhuis’ to lose and at the very least he should get the bigger half of a platoon, at least to start the season. It’s not a coincidence that the Mets played some of their best ball in the early part of last year when Nieuwenhuis was a productive member of the lineup.
After completing their sweep of the Rays, the Mets were 35-29 and Nieuwenhuis had a .298/.360/.429 line following his 2-HR game. For the rest of the season, Nieuwenhuis posted a .130/.193/.234 line and – well you know how the Mets did.
The Mets mercifully sent Nieuwenhuis to the minors at the end of July but he did not get much time to work on his hitting as he came down with another season-ending injury, this time with a partially torn plantar fascia in his right foot. He’s now recovered and receiving playing time in Grapefruit League action.
Here’s what we think Nieuwenhuis will do in 2013:
|Nieuwenhuis Projection||PA||AVG||OBP||SLG||HR||RBIs||OPS v LHP|
Nieuwenhuis was so helpless last year against LHP that it’s almost a bit of a surprise that no one predicted a .000 OPS versus southpaws, with the assumption that Terry Collins wouldn’t let him get a single PA against a lefty. However, the underreported aspect of last year’s slump at the end of his tenure with the Mets is that Nieuwenhuis was being platooned.
That .427 OPS referenced above over his final 85 PA came overwhelmingly against RHP, the ones he was hitting earlier in the season. Nieuwenhuis finished with a .740 OPS versus righties and a .515 OPS against lefties.
Here’s what the group as a whole thinks Nieuwenhuis will do in 2013:
The primary competition for Nieuwenhuis will come from Collin Cowgill and perhaps Matt Den Dekker. Cowgill has already won fans with his hard-nosed play while Den Dekker lived up to his defensive reputation with a HR-snatching grab.
The best thing a player can do is to hit right away when fans form their first opinion. It worked well for Justin Turner in 2011 and it worked last year with Nieuwenhuis. If Nieuwenhuis hits, there’s little doubt he will be a fan favorite. But if he struggles and either Cowgill or Den Dekker get off to hot starts, it’s easy to imagine Collins making a switch.
Finally, let’s close with a table comparing the Mets360 numbers to those of the projection systems available from FanGraphs:
Our projection fits in nicely with the big boys. While optimistic we do not show him with the best in any category. Surprisingly, both Oliver and ZiPS forecast more playing time for Nieuwenhuis than we do. While those two systems both have him with a .687 OPS, we see a .703 mark. Not surprisingly, the top OPS mark – a .743 OPS – comes from the James forecast.
Check back Thursday for our next entry in this series.