Nieuwenhuis, 24, hit .298 with a .403 OBP, six HR and 14 RBI in 188 at-bats for Triple-A Buffalo in 2011. He had shoulder surgery in July and missed the remainder of the season. However, in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, Nieuwenhuis was added to the 40-man roster last month. Sandy Alderson said last week at the team's Holiday Party that it's unlikely Nieuwenhuis will be on the major league roster to start the season due to his injury last year.
Nieuwenhuis is a big and strong left-handed hitter who, outside of an inconsistent stint with Buffalo after a promotion from Double-A Binghamton in 2010, has found success at every level of the Mets organization. He consistently gets on base and can steal bases, but - like a lot of power hitters - he tallies his fair share of strikeouts. If not for his shoulder injury last season, I would have expected him at Citi Field in September. However, he will now get a long look during Spring Training not only to check his progress but to see how healthy his shoulder is after surgery. While I don't think his injury is a major setback at the moment, given his age, the time is now for Nieuwenhuis; he needs to get off to a strong and healthy start at Buffalo in 2012.
Assuming he is beyond his injury and continues to grow, the Mets appear to have an interesting set of outfielders in their pipeline with Nieuwenhuis, Matt Den Dekker, and Brandon Nimmo. Den Dekker had a strong season with Single-A St. Lucie, although he struggled after being promoted to Double-A Binghamton. He is a strong defensive outfielder with a combination of power and speed. He struck out 156 times in 139 games between St. Lucie and Binghamton and, while his success could be determined by his ability to cut down on those strikeouts, he is an exciting young talent (with a great personality) who could also get a long look during camp this Spring as well.