Kirk Robert Nieuwenhuis
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 3", Weight 215 lb.
- School Azusa Pacific University
- High School Denver Christian High School
- Debut April 7, 2012
Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis was drafted by the New York Mets in the 3rd round of the 2008 amateur draft after starring at Azusa Pacific University, where he was an NAIA All-American in 2008, set the school record for triples and run scored, and maintained a .400 average. He was signed by scout Fred Mazuca and made his pro debut that summer.
He hit .277 in 74 games for the Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Penn League in 2008, then improved to .282 while reaching AA in 2009. He started that season with the Class A St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League, where he hit .274 in 123 games, then finished the year with a flourish with the Binghamton Mets of the Eastern League, hitting .406 in 8 games. He also showed good power, with 38 doubles, 6 triples and 17 homers, scored 99 runs and stole 17 bases while being caught only 5 times. He was named to the Florida State League postseason All-Star team. Kirk then split 2010 between AA Binghamton and the AAA Buffalo Bisons, hitting at a .274 clip in 124 games, with 43 doubles and 18 homers. However, his 2011 season at Buffalo was cut short by a torn labrum in his shoulder, ending his year in early June. In 53 games, he managed to hit .298 with 17 doubles and 6 homers and would have made his debut with the Mets were it not for the injury.
Nieuwenhuis started 2012 at Buffalo, but only played one game, in which he drew a pair of walks and stole a base in 4 plate appearances, before getting the call to the Big Apple. In his major league debut on April 7th, he went 2 for 4 against the Atlanta Braves. Two days later, on April 9th, he hit his first major league homer, a two-run shot off Edwin Jackson of the Washington Nationals. On April 20th, he became the first Mets lefthanded batter to hit an opposite field home run over the fence at Citi Field, by connecting off Barry Zito of the San Francisco Giants. The ballpark had been open for four full seasons by that point. He was hitting .325 at the end of April, but saw his batting average decline steadily after that, as he hit .263 in May, .238 in June and only .105 in July. He was sent back to AAA at the end of July, with a batting line of .252/.315/.376 in 91 games, with 7 homers and 28 RBI. On August 3rd, he suffered a season-ending foot injury while playing for Buffalo.
Kirk made the Mets out of spring training as a back-up outfielder in 2013, but could not find his hitting stroke in the early going. He was hitting only .125 when he was sent down to the Las Vegas 51s, the Mets' new AAA affiliate, on April 22nd. He hit only .232 in 36 games in the Pacific Coast League, but at least found his power stroke, with 4 doubles, 10 homers and 18 RBI. The Mets brought him back on June 9th, but he started off 0-for-12 before lacing a single as a pinch-hitter on June 15th. He started in center field against the Chicago Cubs the next day and made an out in his first two at-bats, lowering his batting average to .097, when he stepped up to the plate against Carlos Marmol in the bottom of the 9th with two men on, one out and the Mets trailing, 3-1. He connected for his first homer of the year to give the Mets a come-from-behind 4-3 win. He ended up hitting .189 in 47 games, with 3 homers and 14 RBI. Given his struggles and a logjam in the Mets' outfield at the start of 2014, he began the year back in AAA with Las Vegas. He was hitting .310 in 10 games when injuries to a couple of fly-chasers brought him back to New York. In his first game of the year on April 15th, he homered off Bronson Arroyo and had 3 hits and 3 RBIs to lead the Mets to a 9-0 rout of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He ended up playing 61 games for the Mets, hitting .259 with 3 homers and 16 RBIs. In Las Vegas, he hit .265 with 13 doubles, 11 triples and 32 homers in 57 games.
Nieuwenhuis began the 2015 season as a back-up outfielder with the Mets, but hit only .079 in his first 27 games to be sent down to Las Vegas on May 19th. Seemingly out of the Mets' long-term plans, his contract was sold to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on May 27th but he continued to struggle as he went only 3 for 22 (.126) in 10 games and was placed on waivers. The Mets claimed him right back, and brought him up again on July 6th. After going 1 for 6 in his first five games, he received a rare chance to start in the final game before the All-Star break on July 12th and had the game of his life against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He hit three home runs that day, two off Rubby De La Rosa and the other against Randall Delgado to lead the Mets to a 5-3 win. He was the 10th Mets player to have a three-homer game, but the first ever to do so at home. He began the second half playing almost every day and on July 25th had another excellent game, with 4 hits and 4 RBIs in a 15-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The next day, he had the honor of ending Zack Greinke's streak of 45 1/3 scoreless innings when he reached on a hit-by-pitch, went to third on a single and an error by Dodgers CF Joc Pederson, and then scored on Jacob deGrom's fielder's choice by sliding home ahead of 1B Adrian Gonzalez's throw. He seemed to have finally claimed a regular spot on the team when on August 2nd, he was placed on the disabled list with what was described as discomfort in his back and left shoulder. He came back to the Mets on September 1st and in his third game back, on September 8th, he hit a key pinch home run off Jonathan Papelbon of the Washington Nationals to complete a comeback from a six-run deficit as the Mets won, 8-7.