Left field was a bit of a mess for the Mets in 2014, but Kirk Nieuwenhuis came in clutch throughout the year. Bouncing back and forth between Triple-A Las Vegas and Flushing, he hit a combined .262 with 14 home runs and an .830 OPS on the season.
When he was first called up to the Mets in mid-April, he blasted a home run and had three hits on the day. However, he had just five more multi-hit games after that. After nine games, he was sent back down to Vegas to work on his hitting form. Although he didn't hit for a high average, the team needed a bench player for the outfield. Throughout the rest of the year, Nieuwenhuis saw limited playing time. He started 23 games—spanning each of the outfield positions—but was a pinch hitter 39 times and occasionally came in as a defensive replacement.
Nieuwenhuis was a key for the Mets when their outfielders were over-worked. He played 217.1 innings in the outfield and committed just one error. According to Fangraphs, he saved 4 runs above average. Although he made just 38 plays, he had a career-high 5 assists, which tied him for third place on the team with Juan Lagares.
Based on his minor league numbers, Nieuwenhuis is going to have to keep his strikeout rates down in the future. If he can do that, then he could add a few hits to his resume. When a player goes hit-less for long streaks like he did at numerous points in the season, it is a cause for concern. That was caused by his free-swinging style, which isn't bad if you have good plate vision. However, there were too many points in the season where he was swinging at pitches that were clearly not strikes.
On offense, Nieuwenhuis proved he was valuable against right-handed pitchers with a .262 average. Moreover, he had a pair of hits in nine at-bats against left-handed pitchers, which is encouraging moving forward.
Desired 2015 Role: Full-time outfielder with a .250 average at minimum.
Expected 2015 Role: Part-time outfielder that plays mainly against right-handed pitchers.