2011 Rank: #4
Why Ranked Here: This ranking supposes that Nieuwenhuis will spend the second half of the 2012 season in Queens rather than Buffalo. Before a shoulder injury ended his 2011 early, he was hitting .298/.403/.505 for triple-A Buffalo while playing center field.
Even if he’s not going to be a .300 hitter in the big leagues he has the secondary skills to be a valuable offensive player. In 2011, he drew walks in over 14% of his plate appearances and ran an isolated slugging percentage above .200. There are a pair of red flags in Nieuwenhuis’ 2011 with Buffalo: a .407 BABIP and a 26% strikeout rate. The strikeouts are part of the reason it seems unlikely he will hit .300 in the big leagues. It did seem like Nieuwenhuis struggled against fastballs at the belt or above in 2011. Anything down, he crushed. The batting average on balls in play, was his highest in the upper minors. While partly a reflection of the quality of contact he was making, it too will regress.
At 6’3”, 215 lbs, Nieuwenhuis is on the large side for a center fielder, but clearly staying in center maximizes his value. Early in his career, he should be able to handle the position, as he covers a surprising abount of ground for his size. As he ages, a corner could become a more appealing option. A high school pitcher, Nieuwenhuis has more than enough arm for right, where he could be an above average defender.
2011: Nieuwenhuis’ 2011 ended on June 9th after straining the labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Nieuwenhuis breaks into the Majors in 2012 as a centerfielder and shows 18 HR, 35 doubles power with 18 stolen bases annually to become a well-above average centerfielder.
Debbie Downer Says: 4th outfielder
Projected 2012 Start: AAA Buffalo
MLB Arrival: June 1, 2012
Why Kirk Nieuwenhuis Can Play CF:
Actually, I really wanted to use this play, but I can’t embed the video.