By now we’ve all seen some of the spectacular catches New York Mets minor league outfielder Matt den Dekker has made this spring. At this point, den Dekker’s highlight reel catches are almost becoming a routine, and to a certain extent, he makes those catches look routine. But as impressive as those catches have been, and as great as den Dekker is in the outfield, is he really a legitimate candidate to make the Mets opening-day roster and be their starting centerfielder in 2013?
There is no doubt that den Dekker is ready to be a major league centerfielder defensively; he may even be ready to be a gold glove winning major league centerfielder, but is it enough? What den Dekker brings to the table defensively, he lacks offensively. He was overmatched during the second half of the 2012 season after getting promoted to AAA, his strikeout rate has been high throughout his minor league career, and he struggles to hit left-handed pitching; all of which are major red flags, especially for a team like the Mets that have been so inept on offense the past few seasons. One thing that den Dekker would be able to provide offensively would be power, but perhaps not enough power to offset too low of an average or too high of a strikeout rate.
With the injury to Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who was penciled in as the starting centerfielder heading into spring, and his obvious struggles at the plate prior to his injury, den Dekker has had a lot of opportunities to play during the Grapefruit League schedule, and should be considered a serious contender to win the job in centerfield for the Mets. However, as good as his defense is, it won’t be enough by itself to put him on the opening-day roster. Den Dekker will have to prove he can hit big league pitching without such a low average or too many strikeouts. So far this spring he hasn’t done that, but as soon as he does, if he does, he could be the best option the Mets have in centerfield. Although den Dekker hasn’t proved himself capable of being the answer in centerfield the Mets are looking for, he has done enough to earn more opportunities to try.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him to your network on Google+.