It is official: Andres Torres is on the disabled list with that calf injury suffered Opening Day, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis- just the latest product of baseball factory Azuza Pacific- will play center field in his major league debut on Saturday.
The question is: what should Mets fans expect from him?
Well, for one thing, expect to hear a lot of talk about how his promotion is temporary, statements that will become inoperative if Nieuwenhuis takes the opportunity and runs with it. Similar things were said about Ike Davis when he was promoted in April 2010, and the idea is always the same: limit the pressure on the new kid. Makes sense. But if he looks ready, Andres Torres simply isn’t good enough to stand in his way. The Mets would like nothing more than to use Torres as needed outfield depth. (Torres can also play center, with Nieuwenhuis shifting to a corner, if the Mets decide to bail on Jason Bay.)
For another, don’t expect miracles. ZIPS projects Nieuwenhuis at .238/.304/.398. He struck out in more than a quarter of his plate appearances at Triple-A, which does not bode well for a reasonable contact rate at the major league level.
But with those caveats, be ready for a big, string kid who can play center field surprisingly well for someone his size, has patience at the plate, and should be awfully fun to watch. This is the Mets position prospect I think has a decent shot to contribute in the near term, and he’s up already. It is a testament to the team’s shallow depth. But that shouldn’t stop us all from reveling in the reality that to see him, we don’t need to take a trip all the way to Buffalo.
Call me crazy, but I think he bests the ZIPS projection by a healthy margin as a Met. Call it .260/.350/.420. And Andres Torres becomes the former starting center fielder for the New York Mets, effective immediately.