Thursday, July 21, 2011

Injury Updates for Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Reese Havens

What would you rather hear first, the good or bad news? I think most people typically save the best for last, so we can start with the bad.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, one of the Mets top prospects coming into the season (fifth according to Baseball America) has recently undergone surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left, non-throwing shoulder. This is not only a season-ending injury for Kirk, but a potentially career damaging one.

Although it was not to his throwing shoulder, an injury of this sort completely stops their ability to play baseball until it is fully healed. He cannot swing, and for a player who needs more at-bats in AAA to continue his development, this injury will halt his potential MLB debut by at least a year.

Adam LaRoche's 2011 is a great example as to the impact this type of injury can have on a player.

Throughout his major league career, LaRoche has been a solid MLB first baseman. From 2004 to 2010, LaRoche generated a WAR (wins above replacement) of 9.5, good for 1.36 wins a season, while averaging 23 home runs and 68 RBIs. When the Nationals signed him this off-season, they expected to receive similar production.

However, in Spring Training, things took a turn for the worse. After playing a couple of weeks with what was originally a sore shoulder, he underwent an MRI, and was diagnosed with a slightly torn left labrum. LaRoche tried to play through it, but was a shell of his former self. In 152 at-bats, he hit a paltry .172 with only three home runs and 15 RBI's in 152. Not only was he unable to produce, but he further injured his shoulder, fully tearing his labrum and partially tearing his rotator cuff.

While LaRoche is by no means a Hall of Famer, if Kirk Nieuwenhuis developed into an Adam LaRoche, the Mets would be ecstatic. LaRoche's had been a quality, middle of the lineup bat, and his example shows how big an impact this injury has, throwing shoulder or not. It is vital for Nieuwenhuis and the Mets that this surgery and rehab goes well.

As for the better news, Reese Havens was activated from the disabled list and returned to action for the first time since being placed on the DL July 1st with a back strain.

Havens also made the cut on baseballamerica's pre-season prospect list, checking in at number six, but he should not even be on it. If the Mets and Reese had it their way, he would have stayed healthy and would be playing second base for the Mets today against the Cardinals.

After being drafted in the first round, 22nd overall, four slots after Ike Davis, talent has never been the problem for Havens. He hit right out of the gate, slugging 34 extra base hits in 2009, and followed that up by an even better 2010, where he hit .312 with a .592 slugging between high A Port St. Lucie and AA Binghamton. All of this as a second baseman.

The problem with Reese lies with his inability to stay healthy.

Much like Fernando Martinez, Havens has never played a full season, with 97 games being the most he has ever played in one year. This year was supposed to be different. Trying to solve his chronic issue, Reese, had a unique surgery done this offseason, where an inch was shaved off of one of his ribs to relieve the discomfort in his oblique.

In addition, the Mets were very cautious with Reese to start the year. With a slow rehab, Havens only played his first actual game May 22nd. After starting in Port St. Lucie, the Mets returned him to Binghamton to try and accelerate his development to where he had previously had success. After playing only a month, he hit the DL yet again with what the Mets called a back strain.

I love what Justin Turner has done this season, but looking at the long-term plan for the Mets, second base is a weak spot. If this Havens can find a way to stay healthy, live up to his talent, and hit the way he did in 2009, Sandy Alderson and company will have found themselves a long-term solution.

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