Prospect Pulse: 2013 Mets Centerfield Candidate Matt den Dekker
Matt den Dekker, CF
Bats: L Throws: L
Weight: 205 lb.
Age: 25 (26 in August)
MMO Top Prospect Rank: #12
Here is a brief player profile from the recent 2013 MMO Top 25 Prospect series:
Matt den Dekker has only been in the Mets farm system for three years, but his name has been relevant since the Mets tabbed him as a legitimate centerfield prospect. Den Dekker torched Binghamton upon his arrival in 2012, but struggled after his promotion to Buffalo and saw his strikeout rate increase to nearly 30%. He has a great feel for centerfield and could get by on his spectacular defense alone as a major leaguer. But his ability to hit advanced pitching will ultimately determine how quickly he makes his way onto the Mets.
Den Dekker is likely the closest outfield prospect the Mets have to being MLB ready. The one downside is that he’s another left-handed hitter which means he would have to outperform the glut of other Mets left-handed hitters to earn a promotion.
He is considered a superior defender to incumbent Kirk Nieuwenhuis, but with his inability to consistently make contact and a poor split-performance, den Dekker is likely to begin the season in Las Vegas and won’t make a trip up to Flushing until he can improve some elements to his offensive game. If he can square up and make more consistent contact, while reducing his strikeouts, Den Dekker could make an appearance later this season and end up playing a significant role this year and next. It’s a big “if” but it’s certainly not out of the question.
When looking at den Dekker’s stats, it’s easy to see his numbers took a dive after he made the jump to a higher level. This happened in both 2011 and 2012. What’s promising is how he adjusted at those levels when he started with those teams the following season. He was absolutely destroying Double-A pitching in 2012 after struggling during his first stint there in 2011. In 58 games with Binghamton last year, he hit to the tune of a .340 AVG/.397 OBP/ 8 HR/ 29 RBI/ 10 SB. You can see why he got promoted to Triple-A Buffalo after a sizzling start like that.
Up at Buffalo, he struggled. But as I stated earlier, that seems to be the trend with den Dekker (when he initially makes a jump, he struggles). It will be interesting to see what he does in Las Vegas this year, because if he follows the trend, he should put up some really solid numbers at the Triple-A level now that he got a half season under his belt. If he succeeds in Vegas, he will surely be a candidate to join the Mets sometime in June or July.
Based on the video, den Dekker does have a slight mechanical issue with his swing. It is easily fixable using muscle memory drills. However, he does have a very smooth swing and the potential is there to be a 20/20 type of player at the major league level.
I’m not sure den Dekker will ever be a .300 hitter unless he works out the mechanical deficiency that was described in the video. His front foot opens up during his swing, which causes his hips to open early. This could make him susceptible to off-speed pitches and pitches on the outside part of the plate. Keeping his front foot and hips closed longer should also improve his strikeout rate (since it will help him with the off-speed/outside pitches). If he is going to be a .300 hitter, he is going to have to working on keeping those hips closed and use all parts of the field when hitting.
Here is what a scout had to say about den Dekker via ESPN New York:
He’s a good defender. He throws good enough. He’s got some power — not great power, but he’s got some power. He’s making adjustments. I’ve been there [to watch Binghamton] three times. Every time he’s gotten better with the bat. He’s not flailing. He’s not trying to pull the ball. He’s making adjustments. It looks natural. He will cut down on his strikeouts with this new approach. He’s more patient. He’s going to be OK. I was prepared to not like this kid. He’s really won me over. It’s going to be a very spirited competition for center field between him and Nieuwenhuis, who are both better than Torres.
Those are pretty powerful words from that scout who said that both Nieuwenhuis and den Dekker were better than Andres Torres already, and this quote is from last June. Matt den Dekker should start the season with Triple-A Las Vegas, and you should definitely keep an eye on him in 2013. Depending on how he performs in Las Vegas, he could be in the outfield mix at Citi Field very soon.
To read previous editions of this feature, go to our MMO Prospect Pulse Archives.
Follow MMO Minor League Analyst Mitch Petanick on Twitter at @FirstPitchMitch for even more Mets Minor League and prospect coverage.
About the Author: Mitch Petanick
Mitch is currently an Editor and Minor League Analyst for Mets Merized Online. His baseball experience includes being a former All-Conference collegiate baseball player who had numerous professional tryouts, and he is currently a hitting instructor. He has been involved with the game of baseball for over 30 years now as a player, coach, and consultant. Mitch is also a former Featured Columnist on Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @FirstPitchMitch.
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