Den Dekker, 26, was a fifth-round draft pick in 2010 after an illustrious career at the University of Florida. The outfielder gradually rose through the ranks of the minor leagues before having a breakout first half in 2012 with Binghamton, hitting .340/.397/.563 with 21 doubles, four triples, and eight home runs in 268 plate appearances. The second half was a completely different story for Den Dekker, however, as he struggled to hit above .200 with Triple-A Buffalo. He finished the season with a dreadful .220/.256/.373 slash line with nine home runs in 317 trips to the plate. He saw his walk rate drop below 5% and his strikeout rate rise above 28%. If there is one thing that was going to keep Den Dekker from being a major league player, it’s his unusually-high strikeout rate.
This season after missing time due to a broken wrist, Den Dekker has seen his strikeout rate return to manageable levels, and is now walking at a career-high rate of 9.9% with Triple-A Las Vegas. Den Dekker has a .296/.366/.486 slash line with Vegas to go along with his eight doubles, four triples, and six home run in 202 plate appearances.
Den Dekker will finally get a chance to make his long-awaited debut this week after two years of uncertainty. Two years ago, there was talk that he would be the center fielder on Opening Day despite never having played above Double-A.
Den Dekker is in a situation very similar to Juan Lagares. The two players profile very differently at the plate (Den Dekker is more like Kirk Nieuwenhius with the bat), but they are both players whose value will come predominantly from their defense. Den Dekker has a little bit more power than Lagares, but the difference probably won’t be that significant at the big league level.
If the Mets really plan on revamping their outfield this offseason, it seems logical that only one of the two outfielders will have an everyday job. I could definitely see both of them on the roster come next spring, but this next month will be the beginning of a competition for the center field job, which Lagares already has a significant leg up in.
Regardless, Den Dekker is finally getting a chance to audition for a major league job, something not many expected after last year’s debacle and especially not after the Mets declined to trade Marlon Byrd in late July.
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