On the same day in December the Brewers were awarded waiver claims on Josmil Pinto, Andy Wilkins, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Pinto has since been passed through waivers and retained at AAA. Wilkins with options remaining has also been sent to AAA. Only Kirk Nieuwenhuis remains a potential option to break camp with the major league team. In my opinion it's a foregone conclusion that he makes the cut. And utilized properly he could provide some nice value to the Brewers.
At this point in his career Nieuwenhuis owns a mediocre 232/306/389 slash line across four seasons of part time play. When you look at it this way, it's not surprising so many Brewers fans find themselves underwhelmed at the idea of him being their starting center fielder. But I suggest you focus on his splits versus right handed pitching.
Overall he's been slightly above average vs RHP. His production has been uneven though. That makes it difficult to know what to expect from him this year. And he still has a career 30.5% strike out rate vs RHP. So there are still significant concerns. But it's not crazy to think he might be capable of producing at a slightly above average rate this year. Moving from Citi Field and Angel Stadium to Miller Park can only help.
It will be important to properly utilize him though. And that means hiding him from left handed pitching. He has a career 36 wRC+ vs lefties. That should make fans of Keon Broxton happy. His chances of making the club increased after the horrible injuries Rymer Liriano suffered after being struck by a pitch. But in addition to losing an outfielder, the Brewers also lost the guy they were probably hoping to platoon with Nieuwenhuis which only serves to make the inclusion of Broxton that much more likely.
I have no real idea what to expect from Kirk Nieuwenhuis this season. He'd been good (vs RHP) in the past and that would suggest he can do it again. However he's been so uneven over his career that it's unfair to suggest we can expect that going forward. This is one of those cases where I'm just hoping for the best. And you never know. If he could reproduce the 2014 line, the Brewers might even be able to trade him at some point in the future. They have 3 seasons of control over him after all. Just a thought.
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs