Mailbag, pres. by Verizon: Can Matt den Dekker be the future centerfielder for the Mets?

Hank Lee from Trumbull, Connecticut asks:

I would like to see the Mets consider a guy like Matt den Dekker in their future in center field. I think he can be a Mike Cameron type player (low average, strikeouts, solid OBP, speed, power, gold glove). He saves runs in the field. If the Mets add offense in one of the corner outfield spots, can it work?

Michael Baron, Contributor

Matt den Dekker 1 polaroidIn theory, yes it can work, Hank. However, den Dekker remains an unknown in terms of what he will ultimately become as a player. He might be able to contend for a Gold Glove in the big leagues, and is certainly the best defensive outfielder in the entire organization right now. The issue with den Dekker is his bat, and whether or not he can cut down his strikeouts. He does hit for some power, and has done so at every level he has played at after an adjustment period. But the strikeouts have been a problem for den Dekker, and that could ultimately sink him at the big league level, regardless of who Sandy Alderson might surround him with in the outfield.

During Spring Training, Dave Hudgens was working closely with den Dekker to track and better identify pitches and adjust off the pitches in the weak part of his hitting zone. But den Dekker still struck out 16 times and walked only once in 44 spring at-bats before he broke his wrist; den Dekker clearly has more work to do when he gets healthy and starts his season in Las Vegas.

With that said, he clearly had the Mets thinking this spring, evident by how long he remained in camp — his defense was impossible to ignore during the month of March. It remains to be seen what he does at Las Vegas this season, but it’s not going to be a matter of den Dekker’s ability to save runs defensively. Rather, it could ultimately become a value question over the number of runs he saves and outs he creates defensively versus the runs he takes away and outs he creates offensively. If he proves to be good enough offensively, can cut down the strikeouts and hit for some power, the decision will be academic in time. However, the Mets are going to have a high-strikeout lineup for the foreseeable future — den Dekker will have to adjust, get on-base and make more contact in order to strike an acceptable balance in his value to the organization.


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