Scouting Mets Prospect #9: Kirk Nieuwenhuis

Arguably no other position player put himself on the national radar more than Kirk Nieuwenhuis. The second-year outfielder erupted for one of the hottest streaks anywhere across minor league baseball in 2009. His bat, defense and athleticism make him one of the best-rounded prospects in the organization, and Nieuwenhuis wants to continue that trend in 2010.

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Vital Statistics
Name: Kirk Nieuwenhuis
DOB: August 7, 1987
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 210
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Status: 3rd Round (2008) – Azusa Pacific

"It was definitely a good year. I was happy with it. I think the biggest thing for me was getting through that first full year was important. The short season was one thing, but to get the full year to see how my body would respond to the schedule and the amount of games taught me a lot about perseverance," explained outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

Perseverance is right. Without it, the second-year outfielder would not have had a breakout year; one that included a hot streak that went nearly unmatched anywhere in minor league baseball in 2009. Nieuwenhuis, a third round pick in 2008 that had a solid first season in Brooklyn, emerged from a slow start and finished among the top eight in nearly every major statistical category in the Florida State League last season.

"The biggest difference between Brooklyn and St. Lucie was that the pitchers execute their game plans a lot better. It's more of a guessing game at the short season level. In St. Lucie it was more of figuring out where the pitch will be located more than whether or not the pitcher can actually locate his pitch," Nieuwenhuis explained.

He got off to a good start and excelled at driving the ball to the opposite field. But when pitchers made the adjustment to Nieuwenhuis, specifically pitching him inside, he initially struggled. So, he went to work with St. Lucie's coaches to correct his approach and from there, his production flourished.

"Earlier in the season, I was hitting the ball the other way really well. Once teams figured that out, they would show me away but try to get me out inside," he explained. "I was really struggling with that, but I worked with Juan Lopez and George Greer and Tim Teufel and they noticed a few things with my stance. Once we figured that out, I was able to get on the inside pitch a lot better and that was key for me."

Nieuwenhuis used those corrections to have a monumental August. He hit .348 with six home runs, 25 RBI and 21 extra base hits during the month. By the end of the month, he was top five in the league in home runs, RBI, doubles, hits, runs, total bases and slugging percentage. The consistency, and more importantly, the power boosted his confidence.

"I had three home runs in Brooklyn, and this year I had 17 so it was definitely a great feeling," he said. "I knew I had a little bit of power in college, but to see that kind of maturity was great. I'd really like to keep that going. Hitting the ball out of park with regularity is a good sign for me."

Nieuwenhuis spent the last week of the season in Double-A and kept the production going. In eight games, he hit .406 with a home run, four more extra bases hits and a .472 on-base percentage. For him, it was the perfect ending to gear up him for the new season.

"My first reaction was that it was only a week, but after the season I realized that it was important for me to get my feet wet at that level. I feel great with what I got done, but I'm far from feeling satisfied."

Year

Team

AVG.

AB

Hits

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2009

Binghamton

.406

32

13

1

2

8

1

4

9

.472

.656

2009

St. Lucie

.274

482

132

16

71

91

16

53

118

.357

.467

2008

Brooklyn

.277

285

79

3

29

34

11

29

70

.348

.396



Batting and Power: Nieuwenhuis is an extra base machine with emerging home run power. He has a true up the middle approach. He closes himself off at times, but made an adjustment to open up which allowed him to pull the ball with more authority later in the season. He has a good foundation at the plate and shifts his weight with conviction which allows him to drive the ball to all fields with home run power. His swing has sweeping action to it, but his very strong hands give him excellent bat control through the strike zone. Good vision and pitch recognition allows him to mash right-handed pitching, but his struggles against lefties are a concern. He does not get the same extension against southpaws and is still adjusting to handle pitches inside from them. Nieuwenhuis needs to be more aggressive in favorable counts earlier in at-bats. That should help drop his strikeout rate.

Base Running and Speed: Nieuwenhuis needs to improve on a his first step, but he shows above average speed once underway. His first step has been a heavy focus of his for both base running and in the outfield. He sticks to favorable spots to steal bases, but greater success gives him the confidence to take more chances. He challenges outfielders with his ability to take extra bases and can go first to home without issue. Base stealing is an extra dimension to his game, and swiping 15-20 bags in a season should be no problem for him.

Defense: Nieuwenhuis shows plenty of range in the outfield but does not cover as much ground as smaller, speedier defenders. He uses his athleticism to his advantage but relies on his recovery speed as that lacking first step puts him a bit behind the ball. He gets good reads off the bat, is sure handed and will not hesitate to go into the wall. He has solid, average arm strength aided by a good release and plenty of carry on his throws. He is an all around quality centerfielder who may not get everything, but roams the outfield well enough to hold down the position in the minors. However, that range may limit him at the highest level, and his arm will play better in the corners. If he improves his first step, he could stick in center field.

Projection: Athleticism and extra base power are the backbone of Nieuwenhuis' game. He has strength in his body from head to toe with the physical stature of a big league outfielder. The hole in his swing against left-handers is a concern, and will ultimately limit his production at the highest level without repair. Nevertheless, he has enough pop in his bat and is strong enough defensively that he should get to the big leagues at least as a fourth outfielder. There is still room to grow in his offensive game and if he reaches it, Nieuwenhuis should hold his own at least as a .270-.280 hitter who will hit 15-20 home runs per season with plenty of extra base production to supplement the long ball. If he reaches that ceiling, he will be a starter.

ETA: 2011. As expected, Nieuwenhuis opened in St. Lucie and got a taste of Double-A at the end of the year. He will open the season there. Nieuwenhuis is not a prospect who needs much more time on the farm to refine his game. If he can keep up his production, he should get his first look in New York in the second half of 2011.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nTo discuss all of the scouting reports, head to the Subscribers Forum
\r\n
\r\nVital Statistics
\r\nName: Kirk Nieuwenhuis
\r\nDOB: August 7, 1987
\r\nHeight: 6'3\"
\r\nWeight: 210
\r\nBats: Left
\r\nThrows: Right
\r\nStatus: 3rd Round (2008) – Azusa Pacific
\r\n
\r\n\"It was definitely a good year. I was happy with it. I think the biggest thing for me was getting through that first full year was important. The short season was one thing, but to get the full year to see how my body would respond to the schedule and the amount of games taught me a lot about perseverance,\" explained outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
\r\n
\r\nPerseverance is right. Without it, the second-year outfielder would not have had a breakout year; one that included a hot streak that went nearly unmatched anywhere in minor league baseball in 2009. Nieuwenhuis, a third round pick in 2008 that had a solid first season in Brooklyn, emerged from a slow start and finished among the top eight in nearly every major statistical category in the Florida State League last season.
\r\n
\r\n \"The biggest difference between Brooklyn and St. Lucie was that the pitchers execute their game plans a lot better. It's more of a guessing game at the short season level. In St. Lucie it was more of figuring out where the pitch will be located more than whether or not the pitcher can actually locate his pitch,\" Nieuwenhuis explained.
\r\n
\r\nHe got off to a good start and excelled at driving the ball to the opposite field. But when pitchers made the adjustment to Nieuwenhuis, specifically pitching him inside, he initially struggled. So, he went to work with St. Lucie's coaches to correct his approach and from there, his production flourished.
\r\n
\r\n\"Earlier in the season, I was hitting the ball the other way really well. Once teams figured that out, they would show me away but try to get me out inside,\" he explained. \"I was really struggling with that, but I worked with Juan Lopez and George Greer and Tim Teufel and they noticed a few things with my stance. Once we figured that out, I was able to get on the inside pitch a lot better and that was key for me.\"
\r\n
\r\nNieuwenhuis used those corrections to have a monumental August. He hit .348 with six home runs, 25 RBI and 21 extra base hits during the month. By the end of the month, he was top five in the league in home runs, RBI, doubles, hits, runs, total bases and slugging percentage. The consistency, and more importantly, the power boosted his confidence.
\r\n
\r\n\"I had three home runs in Brooklyn, and this year I had 17 so it was definitely a great feeling,\" he said. \"I knew I had a little bit of power in college, but to see that kind of maturity was great. I'd really like to keep that going. Hitting the ball out of park with regularity is a good sign for me.\"
\r\n
\r\nNieuwenhuis spent the last week of the season in Double-A and kept the production going. In eight games, he hit .406 with a home run, four more extra bases hits and a .472 on-base percentage. For him, it was the perfect ending to gear up him for the new season.
\r\n
\r\n\"My first reaction was that it was only a week, but after the season I realized that it was important for me to get my feet wet at that level. I feel great with what I got done, but I'm far from feeling satisfied.\"
\r\n
\r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n
\r\n

Year

\r\n

\r\n Team

\r\n

\r\n AVG.

\r\n

\r\n AB

\r\n

\r\n Hits

\r\n

\r\n HR

\r\n

\r\n RBI

\r\n

R

\r\n

\r\n SB

\r\n

\r\n BB

\r\n

K

\r\n

\r\n OBP

\r\n

\r\n SLG

\r\n

\r\n 2009

\r\n

\r\n Binghamton

\r\n

\r\n .406

\r\n

\r\n 32

\r\n

\r\n 13

\r\n

\r\n 1

\r\n

\r\n 2

\r\n

\r\n 8

\r\n

\r\n 1

\r\n

\r\n 4

\r\n

\r\n 9

\r\n

\r\n .472

\r\n

\r\n .656

\r\n

\r\n 2009

\r\n

\r\n St. Lucie

\r\n

\r\n .274

\r\n

\r\n 482

\r\n

\r\n 132

\r\n

\r\n 16

\r\n

\r\n 71

\r\n

\r\n 91

\r\n

\r\n 16

\r\n

\r\n 53

\r\n

\r\n 118

\r\n

\r\n .357

\r\n

\r\n .467

\r\n

\r\n 2008

\r\n

\r\n Brooklyn

\r\n

\r\n .277

\r\n

\r\n 285

\r\n

\r\n 79

\r\n

\r\n 3

\r\n

\r\n 29

\r\n

\r\n 34

\r\n

\r\n 11

\r\n

\r\n 29

\r\n

\r\n 70

\r\n

\r\n .348

\r\n

\r\n .396


\r\n
\r\nBatting and Power: Nieuwenhuis is an extra base machine with emerging home run power. He has a true up the middle approach. He closes himself off at times, but made an adjustment to open up which allowed him to pull the ball with more authority later in the season. He has a good foundation at the plate and shifts his weight with conviction which allows him to drive the ball to all fields with home run power. His swing has sweeping action to it, but his very strong hands give him excellent bat control through the strike zone. Good vision and pitch recognition allows him to mash right-handed pitching, but his struggles against lefties are a concern. He does not get the same extension against southpaws and is still adjusting to handle pitches inside from them. Nieuwenhuis needs to be more aggressive in favorable counts earlier in at-bats. That should help drop his strikeout rate.
\r\n
\r\nBase Running and Speed: Nieuwenhuis needs to improve on a his first step, but he shows above average speed once underway. His first step has been a heavy focus of his for both base running and in the outfield. He sticks to favorable spots to steal bases, but greater success gives him the confidence to take more chances. He challenges outfielders with his ability to take extra bases and can go first to home without issue. Base stealing is an extra dimension to his game, and swiping 15-20 bags in a season should be no problem for him.
\r\n
\r\nDefense: Nieuwenhuis shows plenty of range in the outfield but does not cover as much ground as smaller, speedier defenders. He uses his athleticism to his advantage but relies on his recovery speed as that lacking first step puts him a bit behind the ball. He gets good reads off the bat, is sure handed and will not hesitate to go into the wall. He has solid, average arm strength aided by a good release and plenty of carry on his throws. He is an all around quality centerfielder who may not get everything, but roams the outfield well enough to hold down the position in the minors. However, that range may limit him at the highest level, and his arm will play better in the corners. If he improves his first step, he could stick in center field.
\r\n
\r\nProjection: Athleticism and extra base power are the backbone of Nieuwenhuis' game. He has strength in his body from head to toe with the physical stature of a big league outfielder. The hole in his swing against left-handers is a concern, and will ultimately limit his production at the highest level without repair. Nevertheless, he has enough pop in his bat and is strong enough defensively that he should get to the big leagues at least as a fourth outfielder. There is still room to grow in his offensive game and if he reaches it, Nieuwenhuis should hold his own at least as a .270-.280 hitter who will hit 15-20 home runs per season with plenty of extra base production to supplement the long ball. If he reaches that ceiling, he will be a starter.
\r\n
\r\nETA: 2011. As expected, Nieuwenhuis opened in St. Lucie and got a taste of Double-A at the end of the year. He will open the season there. Nieuwenhuis is not a prospect who needs much more time on the farm to refine his game. If he can keep up his production, he should get his first look in New York in the second half of 2011.
\r\n
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