With the New York Mets finally getting around to cutting outfielder Chris Young, the team has brought back Matt den Dekker to the majors, a much-deserved promotion after he was one of the standout performers in the Mets’ farm system in July. However, while this is a great opportunity for den Dekker, it may be his last opportunity. With today being den Dekker’s 27th birthday, he’s approaching what should be his baseball prime, so time is running out to carve out a substantial big league career, meaning for him it’s now or never.
There’s little doubt that at this point in his career, den Dekker has mastered triple-A, as he joins the Mets as the Pacific Coast League leader in batting average. But he’s struggled to translate that success to the big leagues, hitting just .207 in 27 games last year, and .156 in 17 games this year. His M.O. is to struggle at a new level for roughly half a season before figuring things out and putting up impressive numbers. Unfortunately, the Mets may not give den Dekker a full half season in the big leagues to figure things out, so time is not necessarily on his side.
The good news is that with both Young and Bobby Abreu out of the picture, the plan is to give den Dekker regular playing time in left field, at least against right-handed starters, which should give him about six weeks of regular at bats. In that time, den Dekker needs to prove that he can be a consistent contributor offensively in order to make himself a part of the Mets plans heading into 2015. Otherwise, he risks getting the reputation of a player that will hit at triple-A but is unable to get it done in the majors.
Ultimately, den Dekker will have to prove that he can hit in the big leagues while getting regular at bats, as his high strikeout rate and struggles against lefties in the minors don’t give him the profile of an every day player. But the first step towards becoming a permanent fixture on a major league roster, even in a part time role, is proving that he can hit major league pitching, and that’s what den Dekker has to prove between now and the end of the season.
If he fails to solidify a spot in the majors, the Mets will have no trouble formulating a plan for their outfield in 2015 that excludes den Dekker. At 27 years old, he’s not going to have too many more opportunities in the big leagues if he doesn’t produce, and this may be the best opportunity he gets, which is why for den Dekker, it’s now or never.