New York Mets: Why Kirk Nieuwenhuis Is a Long-Term Piece of the Rebuild

Mike Grofsick@sickgrofContributor IIIMay 16, 2012

PHILADELPHIA - MAY 8: Center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis #9 of the New York Mets bats during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on May 8, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Mets won 7-4. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Hunter Martin/Getty Images

It was only a few weeks into the season when the Mets' injury plague that has spread over the last couple of seasons seemed to be continuing.

Sure, Jason Bay hadn't been performing that well, but it's not like the Mets had a rock-solid choice to replace him.

So the Mets decided to go the young route, and they called up 24-year-old Kirk Nieuwenhuis, now referred to as "Captain." They weren't sure what they were going to get out of Kirk, but he had been high on their prospect list for a couple years, and he had done well in spring training.

Well, Kirk didn't disappoint. Since joining the Mets, Nieuwenhuis is hitting .294, with a couple of big homers, 12 RBI and 19 runs scored. However, he also has a very high 39 strikeouts.

There are two ways to look at that.

You can either say that it's a good sign, because that means when he puts the ball in play, he finds holes, so when he develops and cuts down on his strikeouts, he will hit for an even higher average.

Or you could say that it means his BABIP is unusually high and will even out. Putting statistics aside and just talking about what we've watched, I believe it's the former, because when Kirk has hit the ball this year, he's hit it hard the majority of the time.

"Captain" Kirk should be part of the Mets' rebuild, because he fits what they are trying to do with the team. He's a guy who plays great defense and will give you 110 percent every time he's on the field. He works counts in the box, even if a lot of them have ended in strikeouts this year. If the Mets continue to work with Kirk, he is a guy who could definitely benefit the team long-term.

Andres Torres has played well this year, but he is 34 years old. Torres is by no means the long-term solution in center field.

Kirk got shifted to left field once Torres returned from injury, but it was clear before that point that Nieuwenhuis could play center field at the major league level. He had a couple gaffes, but that's to be expected with being young. He also had a couple of spectacular plays to go along with those gaffes, however.

Nieuwenhuis is very capable of batting leadoff for the Mets, although he might fit better into the No. 2 hole long-term. This could work for the Mets, because Terry Collins seems to like batting Daniel Murphy No. 3 or No. 5, either in front of or behind David Wright batting cleanup.

It seems pretty clear that the Mets are now going to re-sign Wright long-term, so having a lineup of Kirk, Murphy and Wright in the 2-3-4 would be quite formidable.

The thing that makes Kirk even more valuable to the Mets is that he can do a little bit of everything. He has all five tools, although he might not be considered a five-tool player. He has given Terry Collins everything he's got for the first part of this season, and that's something I would like to see around CitiField for a long time to come.