Kirk Nieuwenhuis is listed at 6'3", 215 lbs. so maybe it shouldn't have been a surprise to learn that he is gigantic, even compared to some of his also-large teammates. But it was. Nieuwenhuis is on the far left in this picture, which was taken on one of the Mets' team bowling nights and features Ike Davis, David Wright, Matt Harvey, and others:
.@iked29 @mattharvey33 @redturn2 and the rest of the #Mets are ready to bowl. #MetsBowling twitter.com/Mets/status/30…— New York Mets (@Mets) February 17, 2013
He's dominating that picture. Maybe it's just the perspective of the photo. Regardless, Nieuwenhuis moves pretty well for a big guy. That mobility in center field will be crucial to the overall value he can provide the Mets this season, given his platoon split and propensity for strikeouts at the plate.
Nieuwenhuis made a strong first impression last season after he was called up to the big leagues in early April to replace the injured Andres Torres. He posted an .861 OPS that first month while playing on an everyday basis. He also made several highlight-reel catches, making fans forget about Torres and think the Mets might have had their long-term center fielder. There were some red flags during that remarkable debut though; his strikeout rate was 28.4% and his BABIP was an unsustainable .453 in April. All signs pointed to regression at the plate and that's precisely what happened. From May 1st through July 28th (his last MLB game of the season due to a foot injury), Nieuwenhuis hit .223/.287/.337 while striking out 73 times in 226 plate appearances. That's a lot of strikeouts for a guy without big-time power.
The center field plan seems to be a platoon of Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill. Given the former's pronounced struggles against left-handed pitching, it's not a bad idea. Cowgill isn't exactly a lefty masher in the mold of Scott Hairston, but it won't take much to top Nieuwenhuis' .515 OPS against southpaws in 2012. The duo should play overall adequate if unspectacular defense, if Cowgill's scouting reports are to be trusted. Although I haven't watched Cowgill defensively so who knows. Like the Mets' outfield as a whole, I'm not optimistic about the center field position this season.
I'm thinking Nieuwenhuis will play more than expected. Cowgill will play less than expected, as he will prove to be a four-A player. I hope I'm wrong. Post your Nieuwenhuis projection in the comments in the same format as below. I'll compare our projections to actual results at season's end.