Yesterday, Allan Dykstra of the B-Mets was nice enough to grant me a phone interview, and we discussed a variety of different topics regarding him, his team, the organization and even a couple of his teammates.
Dykstra, now 26, is having one of the best seasons in the entire Mets organization batting .309 with 22 doubles, 18 home runs and 66 RBI in just 269 at-bats. But what really jumps out is his other-worldly .464 on-base percentage. I asked him if that was something that was important to him.
“Yes, definitely. Sometimes my batting average is not as high as I would like it to be, but I understand that getting on base is what’s most paramount when you want to score runs and win games.”
“I’m not going up there looking for walks, but at the same time I’m not going to swing at something I know I can’t hit because it’s too far off the plate. In that regard I’d rather take the walk.”
I wondered if this approach was something he picked up since joining the Mets or if this was an approach he’s had all the time.
“Actually it’s a little bit of both. I definitely always had this approach when I came to the plate, but it became more emphasized when I was with the Padres who wanted us to try and work our way to a hitter’s count and a lot of times that would lead to more walks. The Mets organization wants the same thing as far as waiting for your pitch and working the counts in your favor.”
“Ultimately you want to avoid the pitcher’s pitch and wait for the right time to strike on the pitch you’re looking for. That’s not to say we’re taking a passive approach, I think of it as a smarter approach.”
I asked Dykstra to describe the type of hitter he sees himself as, and if he had a particular preference of where he preferred to hit in the lineup.
“Obviously I prefer to drive in runs, but honestly just being out there and playing everyday is what is most important to me. Getting the opportunity to play and contribute is all great with me.”
“Lets talk about your defensive game” I asked the former first rounder.
“It’s pretty good. My defense is one of the things I work hard on. I feel good out there and my legs feel better than they have in a long time. We seem to have a lot of guys who all play the same position (first base) and it results in playing some games at DH a little more than I’d like to.”
Dykstra actually raises a big issue and it’s partly why he’s still in Double-A rather than Triple-A where he certainly belongs. The logjam at first base in Las Vegas was already well known and the Ike Davis situation certainly made it a little worse. Now, throw in the fact that the Mets are giving more and more time at first base to Wilmer Flores and you can plainly see why Dykstra, who leads the Eastern League with a 1.056 OPS, is still in Binghamton chowing down on those delicious Pork Spiedies. (More on that later)
I asked Dykstra, no relation to Lenny by the way, if he knew the Padres were going to select him in the first round in 2008.
“Actually, the Padres were one of the only teams that did not meet with me. Being a San Diego native and growing up in their backyard, they were the team I grew up rooting for. On the day of the draft when I received that call, I was so happy to be drafted by them and knowing I was playing for my hometown team. But obviously I learned quickly that baseball is a business and they traded me to the Mets.”
“That had to be a killer”, I said. “How did you find out… What was going through your head at the time?”
“It was unexpected. We were breaking spring training camp in 2011 on a Sunday, and at about 9:30 in the morning, the Farm Director told me, ‘We traded you. Best of luck. We thought it was a batter fit for the players involved. Tomorrow you’ll be with the Mets”’
“That was it. I was shocked and didn’t know what was happening. I din’t know how to go about it, there’s no instruction guide or handbook for when something like this happens to you. You get plane ticket for a flight in the morning and it’s goodbye and good luck.”
“I don’t mean to laugh,” I told him. “But damn… That sounds so freaking cold.”
He laughed along with me and recalled how little time he had to get to know his new teammates because it was toward the end of spring training for the Mets, and basically he got the tour of the complex and it took a few days to get his bearings straight and learn the lay of the land. “But believe me, it’s a big shock to get traded.”
“There’s a feeling of rejection, but you have to tell yourself that it’s a fresh start and make the best of the situation.”
I asked him who the first Met to reach out to him was and he told me it was Adam Wogan, the former Mets Director of MLB Operations.
The Lightning Round…
JD – Name one teammate who has impressed you the most this season with the B-Mets?
AD – Oh. it’s definitely Cesar Puello… I’ve hit behind him the majority of the year and he is such a model of consistency and the way he barrels up on the ball is really something else. Sometimes he just blows me away… I’ll be watching him from the on-deck circle and he’ll just blast one and I’m laughing on the way to the plate wondering how the hell did he just hit that ball. Puello’s hands are really quick and his swing is something he’s always working on and trying to perfect and right now he has everything working for him. He’s so impressive to watch.
JD – I know you’ve been blocked at first base at Triple-A, but are you ready for a new challenge?
AD – Definitely. You always want to move up and last year was a disappointment with me getting hurt. I was hoping to start there (Triple-A) this year, but I realize that’s not my decision to make. It’s like you said, there’s just so many players in the organization that all play the same position. That said, it’s something that I can’t let it bother me and I still have a job to do. I love this game, and whether it’s at Las Vegas or Binghamton, I’m still playing baseball and I’m grateful always for that.
JD – With the numbers you’re putting up, you’ll get that promotion sooner rather than later. You’re pushing the envelope and good things are gonna happen for you because of it.
JD – Is there a former player you’ve looked up to or even modeled your game after?
AD – When I was younger I was a big Tony Gwynn fan, but as I got older I became a big fan of Chipper Jones. Yes, I know most Met fans probably don’t want to know that, but I initially was a third baseman and a shortstop when I started playing ball and to me Chipper was the best in the game. I also loved Cal Ripken too. Those three players represented the kind of baseball player I wanted to be and were big inspirations. As far as modeling my game, it was Chipper even down to his toe-tap at the plate.
JD – You probably envisioned yourself being in the majors by now?
AD – I envisioned myself there a long time ago, but no seriously, I realize that during my first two pro seasons I didn’t meet a lot of those expectations baseball people had for me. Then I got sidetracked by injuries on top of that, but last year I really started to put up the kind of numbers I knew I was capable of. I continued to work hard and I am proud of the season I’m having now.
JD – Who is the biggest influence for you right now?
AD – Right now and for the last three seasons it’s definitely my hitting coach Luis Natera. He discussed my ups and downs with me when we first met and he really helped me understand things in a way that connected and clicked for me. He’s been a huge influence in my baseball career. I talk to him everyday and not even about baseball stuff, but my personal life too. He’s really been there for me through good times and bad. He’s not only a great coach, but he’s a great person and a great friend.
JD – Do players and coaches normally form this kind of bond at the minor league levels?
AD – I don’t really know, other than my own experience. It’s my third year with Luis Natera and when I first arrived I knew nobody and was looking to make a fresh start and he introduced himself to me and has helped and guided me ever since. He listened to me. When I was down he genuinely listened and cared and said he was going to do whatever he could to help me improve my game and my focus. And that’s exactly what he did.
* * * * * * * *
I’ll post the rest of my interview with Allan Dykstra tomorrow, but I think it’s time for Met fans to recognize this amazing talent who is having one of the most remarkable seasons in the entire Mets organization.
Dykstra is motivated, focused, is an on-base machine, and can drive the ball to all fields. Almost half his hits are for extra-bases including his 18 home runs and 22 doubles.
The logjam at first base has him trapped at Double-A, but it’s scary to think how his .464 OBP or 1.1055 OPS would translate in the Pacific Coast League.
More on this young man tomorrow….
Site News: I’m looking for some writers who’d like to cover the Mets minors and write analysis pieces on our prospects for MMO. It includes access and interview opportunities as well as showcasing yourself to over 18,000 readers daily. Shoot me an email at GetMetsmerized@aol.com.