The New York Mets made a roster move on Wednesday when the team optioned Matt den Dekker back to Triple-A Las Vegas and recalled Kirk Nieuwenhuis for the second time this season.
den Dekker was seeing regular playing time due to the injuries to Juan Lagares and Eric Young Jr., however now that Young has returned, den Dekker’s playing time had dried up. At Las Vegas he can play everyday.
The biggest question with den Dekker as a prospect is whether or not he can hit at a major league level. During his brief stint with the team, he did not show that he could. Nieuwenhuis, on the other hand, has had several cups of coffee with the Mets and though he has struggled with strikeouts, has shown that he can be a decent enough hitter to come off the bench late in games. He has also been hitting very well lately at Las Vegas with a .314 average, 2 home runs and four RBI in his last eight games.
What they have in common is that they are both very impressive defensive players. den Dekker may have a slight advantage in his defensive skill set but Nieuwenhuis has the ability to play the corner outfield spots as well whereas den Dekker is a pure center fielder only for the most part. Neither of them are Juan Lagares of course but defense is certainly not a weakness no matter which man is playing the outfield.
It is likely that this will not be a long term promotion for the man affectionately deemed “Captain Kirk”. Juan Lagares has been making progress on his rehab and as of June 15 was running, throwing and hitting off of a tee. Though he hasn’t played in any rehab games yet, it should only be a week or two until Lagares can return.
Despite that fact, Nieuwenhuis’s ability to play all three outfield positions, and the continued struggles of Chris Young could mean a decent amount of playing time for the left-handed hitting Nieuwenhuis. If he can keep his strikeout numbers down, he has shown in his several big league stints that he can produce both offensively and defensively.
However, given the financial commitment to Young, Nieuwenhuis will likely be a left-handed pinch-hitter or late game defensive replacement, especially in games when Bobby Abreu starts in right field, while earning the occasional start if Young or Young Jr. get a day off or an unfavorable pitching matchup.
It remains to be seen if Nieuwenhuis can produce consistently but this certainly can be an audition for open outfield positions next year with Chris Young only signed for this season. If “Captain Kirk” is able to impress with his production he may get the chance to stick around in Queens.
Other Farm System News:
Travis d’Arnaud is hitting the cover off the ball in Las Vegas. In eight games since his demotion he is hitting nearly .400 with five home runs. The Mets have sent a scout to watch d’Arnaud’s at bats to determine whether these numbers have been inflated by the ballparks or talent jump, or if d’Arnaud has in fact figured out his swing. The Mets hope retain his final Minor League option by recalling the catcher before he spends 20 days with Las Vegas.