NL East Notes: Parnell, Nieuwenhuis, Nats, Phils

Mets reliever Bobby Parnell, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, says he is making good progress and expects to be ready for the spring, as Mike Vorkunov of the Star-Ledger reports. Having suffered his injury early in 2014, it seems that Parnell has a good chance of returning early in the year, if not by Opening Day itself. That would create difficult but welcome decisions for New York, which has received encouraging production from some younger late-inning arms like Jenrry Mejia, Vic Black, and Jeurys Familia.

Here’s more from the NL East:

  • The Mets are using the rest of this year to take a long look at outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, tweets Mike Puma of the New York Post. The 27-year-old will be out of options next year. Though he has spent much of the year at Triple-A, Nieuwenhuis has posted a strong .259/.361/.506 slash with three home runs and four stolen bases over his 97 big league plate appearances to date.
  • An underappreciated element of the Nationals‘ success is the team’s well-balanced lineup, writes Drew Fairservice of Fangraphs. The club’s current starting lineup is made up entirely of players who have produced better than league average offensively this year, and that is with Ryan Zimmerman still on the disabled list.
  • Of course, that same well-balanced group of position players will also make for some tough decisions — both now and in the future — when Zimmerman returns to the mix. His torn hamstring is improving, making a mid to late-September return seem likely, according to a report from Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. When he is activated, manager Matt Williams says, Zimmerman will play multiple defensive positions as he dials in his bat. “I would imagine he’ll play all three of those, on any given day,” said Williams. That creates some interesting possibilities for the Nats down the stretch, as they will be able to match up for the platoon advantage, give rest to regulars, and find a workable strategy for the postseason. It also could provide a look ahead at some of the possible arrangements for 2015 and beyond.
  • Whereas the Nats have plenty of options, the Phillies have few, writes Mike Petriello of Fangraphs. The club will shed only minimal veteran obligations after this year (Kyle Kendrick and Mike Adams), and arbitration raises will absorb much of that cash. Philadelphia’s problems remain largely the same as those I predicted and Petriello documented earlier this year: despite solid enough production from older players, the team’s overall roster (and, especially, its younger side) has not been good enough to rise out of the cellar. As Petriello goes on to argue, GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s stated intention to turn over the club’s roster will play out against the stark backdrop that there are limited apparent routes — shopping Cole Hamels, getting something for Marlon Byrd, perhaps convincing Chase Utley to accept a trade — to swapping present value for future talent.

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