So far there’s been two major injuries where players aren’t expected to be put on the DL. Daniel Murphy, incumbent second baseman and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, early outfield favorite, are both still a ways away from Spring Training action again after getting hurt earlier in the Spring.
Both should make it back to live action before Opening Day, but both are not in the same place. Murphy looks like he’ll get back sooner, and has the second base job waiting for him when he does get back. Kirk on the other hand, seems to have been long since passed by in terms of starting outfielders. Why?
It’s a question of volume. Murphy has exactly one player who could chase him from his job right now, that’s Jordany Valdespin. With the Mets sending down Wilmer Flores today, the dust settles on only one player who has upside comparable or potentially greater than Murphy. The fact that Murph has more major league experience keeps the hound that is Valdespin away. That and the fact that Valdespin is one of the guys hounding Nieuwenhuis for his job.
But it’s not just Valdespin. Nieuwenhuis is under fire from a battalion of outfield hopefuls. Originally one of the top three options for the outfield with Lucas Duda and Mike Baxter, none of those three are sure things for starting spots and perhaps even roster spots. That’s because there are at least three others who are performing well so far. Collin Cowgill and Marlon Byrd have impressed as much as Valdespin. Since there’s just so much competition and the level of play is close to what could be expected from Nieuwenhuis, his absence is hurting him. It’s similar, but not quite the same, as what happened to the 49’ers’ Alex Smith. Smith was solid, but the fact that the team had depth at quarterback led to a switch while Smith was unable to play.
Let’s just say for argument’s sake that they was actually more candidates for the outfield. For instance, Duda was hitting .400 with five spring home runs this year. With three guys who look like they could handle everyday jobs in the outfield, Valdespin might be pushing Murphy instead of Neiuwenhuis. Valdespin’s natural position is in the middle infield, and if Murph isn’t able to go at any point, I think Valdespin gets first crack there.
At least neither Murphy or Neiuwenhuis are in the situation Frank Francisco is in. The Mets really don’t mind him being on the DL. “Take your time recuperating,” they say to the guy who pitched to a 5.00+ ERA last year. They want Murphy and Nieuwenhuis to get healthy, just like they want Johan Santana to get back to playing shape. They want those three players to be successful and as opposed to Francisco, they have faith they’ll all be quality when they are healthy. In the case of Nieuwenhuis, there’s just more people who they also feel will be quality who currently are healthy.
(Editors Note: there’s a small part of me that doesn’t want Neiuwenhuis to make the roster, only becuase I don’t want to fret over spelling his name 10 times in an article.)