Mets360 projection review: Kirk Nieuwenhuis

Kirk Nieuwenhuis2The next player in the Mets360 preseason projection review is Kirk Nieuwenhuis. The original piece with the projections can be found here. As a group, the Mets360 staff projected the following line for Nieuwenhuis:

PA – 382

AVG – .250

OBP – .320

SLG – .383

HR – 10

RBI – 42

OPS vs. LHP – .540

One of the biggest question marks for Nieuwenhuis going into the 2013 season was his ability to hit left-handed pitching. If he could do that, or at least improve to the point where he wasn’t hurting the team, it seemed feasible that he could win the starting center field job. The Mets360 staff didn’t think much of those chances, predicting he’d have an OPS of only .540 versus southpaws, though that still would have been an improvement on his .515 OPS against left-handers in 2012. Let’s see how this and the other projections went for us:

PA – 108

Best – Walendin (245)

Worst – Rogers (560)

AVG – .189

Best – Joura (.230)

Worst – Rogan (.275)

OBP – .278

Best – Joura (.293)

Worst – Mcwilliam (.339)

SLG – .337

Best – Joura (.360)

Worst – Rogan (.415)

HR – 3

Best – Hangley (6)

Worst – Rogers (15)

RBI – 14

Best – Koehler (20)

Worst – Stack (75)

OPS vs. LHP – .111

Best – Hangley (.460)

Worst – Rogan (.610)

Charlie Hangley wasn’t far off with home runs and Mike Koehler’s very low RBI total was eerily prophetic. However, Brian Joura’s seemingly pessimistic projections were the overall best in this case:

275 PA, .230 AVG, .293 OBP, .360 SLG, 7 HR, 30 RBI, and .490 OPS vs. LHP

The big name projection systems were all pretty off the mark as well. While not shocking, it seems that nobody really predicted the disaster of a season that Nieuwenhuis would have in 2013. There were factors that led to the projections and factors that led to what was probably the end to any significant role he will play on any future Mets team, as discussed below.

The 2013 Mets outfield was projected to be just absolutely abysmal. It was a pretty popular storyline during spring training and the weeks leading up to it. The thinking at the time was that Nieuwenhuis and newly acquired Collin Cowgill would platoon in center field with prospect Matt den Dekker on the periphery but most likely headed to AAA. In fact, there was talk of Nieuwenhuis potentially becoming the team’s leadoff hitter. With all of the uncertainty surrounding the outfield, it wasn’t outlandish to think that maybe Nieuwenhuis could perform just well enough to grab the starting gig.

Unfortunately for Nieuwenhuis, his season did not pan out as he surely hoped it would. First, after going 0-7 against left-handed pitching during spring training, it seemed as though Mets manager Terry Collins had seen enough to avoid using him in such situations during the regular season. As a result, Nieuwenhuis had just nine plate appearances against lefties during his time on the major league roster in 2013. With his platoon-mate Cowgill a failed experiment and his lack of performance, it was wasn’t long before the Mets demoted him to make room for rookie Juan Lagares in late April.

It didn’t seem like Nieuwenhuis would get another shot after the Mets inexplicably signed Rick Ankiel to start in center field. However, Ankiel predictably flopped and Nieuwenhuis was promoted in early June to take his spot. It was essentially a platoon of Nieuwenhuis and Lagares in center field for the next month and a half, with Nieuwenhuis the half of the platoon not pulling his weight. It quickly became clear that Lagares had played himself into the starting center field job, and with the Mets acquisition of 2B/OF Eric Young, Jr. it seemed the writing was on the wall. In late July the Mets once again demoted Nieuwenhuis to make room for Jenrry Mejia.

Nieuwenhuis’ future with the team is in serious question at this point. The expectation is that the Mets will look to upgrade the corner outfield spots this off-season. Assuming they do, and with Young and Lagares on the roster, it seems that Nieuwenhuis will be a long shot to make the major league roster next season. The presence of Matt den Dekker and the looming AAA arrival of Cesar Puello further cloud his future. The fact that he was not promoted in September when rosters expanded is surely a bad sign as well, and he will most likely remain in AAA as outfield depth moving forward.

2 comments for “Mets360 projection review: Kirk Nieuwenhuis

  1. Metsense
    October 6, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Nieuwenhuis only projected as a below average platoon CF at best. Lagares has taken the CF spot and MDD has moved up on the depth chart. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kirk loses his roster spot.

  2. Name
    October 7, 2013 at 1:59 am

    I don’t believe Kirk’s season was as bad as everyone thought. Yes, his overall numbers look bad because in his first 19 games he started out with an absolutely pathetic .103/.161/.138 with a .299 OPS. But after his huge HR against the Cubbies (on 6/16), he then hit a very healthy .263/.338/.491 with a .830 OPS and only a .279 BABIP thru the all-star break. (Meanwhile Lagares was only providing .663 OPS on his side of the platoon over this period).

    However, after the break Kirk came out in a 0-9 funk and with Lagares hitting .444/.500/.741, TC made the leap of faith dumping Kirk and banking on Lagares’ defense (and BABIP fueled hitting numbers). One could wonder what Kirk could have done if he hadn’t got cold at the wrong time.

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