If such a thing were even possible, the New York Mets outfield just got even shallower over the weekend an injury to projected center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
Should it be anything more serious than the bruised knee that the ailment is reported to be, it will seriously decimate what could already be best described as an average minor league outfield for the Mets. That fact alone should tell you just how dire the team’s outfield situation really is.
No, with a full-time outfield of below-replacement player Lucas Duda, Colin Cowgill, and Mike Baxter projected to take the field everyday, this outfield isn’t going to be the most exciting to watch at the plate or on the field.
You could say there’s not really much the Mets can do about the former, considering that Jordany Valdespin and Marlon Byrd could both end up as backups, but the latter is something of an entirely different matter.
The Mets, in fact, do have a player in camp would could add a spark to the outfield. His name? Matt den Dekker.
Den Dekker isn’t exactly what you’d call a top prospect, and he’d only posted a .220/.256/.373 triple slash in after arriving in Triple-A last season with a miserable 0.16 BB/K, so its not as though he’s going to add much offense at the plate for New York anytime soon.
What he does bring, however, is defense – and he brings it in spades, and in highlight-reel fashion.
There was the SportsCenter top-10-topping catch he made in the 2010 College World Series as previous evidence, and den Dekker most recently showed what he can do this spring in his very first game, absolutely robbing Washington Nationals prospect Anthony Rendon of a home run, and making it look effortless.
Those aren’t the type of plays that Cowgill can make, and if den Dekker can just stay above water at the plate, the team would probably have a pretty compelling reason to have the defensive wiz join the team on Opening Day as a defensive replacement off the bench.
Unfortunately, den Dekker is sinking at the plate this far in spring.
The 25-year old has just a pair of hits in 12 at-bats, and a staggering six strikeouts over that span. That kind of strikeout rate isn’t going to play anywhere, let alone the majors, even on a team that will essentially feature a group of minor leagues in the outfield like the Mets.
However, the opportunity is there for him to make a splash now, especially when the Mets are essentially going to consider all options should Nieuwenhuis need to miss time. Den Dekker has the leg up of being in-house, and he has the kind of game-changing defense that could be a talking point for the team as long as he’s on the field.
That said, if den Dekker wants to take advantage, he might just have to learn to swing the bat a few less times – and soon.