For the past few years, New York thought Fernando Martinez was the center fielder of the future. Now it appears to be Kirk Nieuwenhuis, but there’s a new competitor for the spot currently owned by Angel Pagan.
Class-A St. Lucie’s Matt den Dekker is opening eyes throughout the organization. The fleet-footed 23-year-old was drafted in the fifth round out of the University of Florida last season and heading into the season was viewed as the best defensive outfielder in the system.
However scouts feel he projects as an extra outfielder at the big league level because of a questionable bat, lack of power and strike-zone judgment. But the left-handed hitter is doing his best to change those views.
He’s batting .371/.398/.598 with 13 doubles, three triples, a homer, 16 RBI and three stolen bases in his first 23 games at St. Lucie. His average is tied for fourth highest in the Florida State league. Furthermore, he’s hitting fellow left-handers at a .436 clip (17-for-39), is batting .440 with runners in scoring position (11-for-25) and hitting well both at home and on the road.
However, his four walks against 21 strikeouts over 97 at-bats is still worrisome, especially for a speed player who will be expected to hit at the top of the order in the big leagues.
Den Dekker broke out for the Gators during an outstanding senior season, batting .352 with 13 homers and 23 steals in 62 games before getting drafted. He hit a combined .336 with a .855 OPS in 21 games between the Gulf Coast League and Savannah last season.
With his limited power, den Dekker will have to improve in that area to be considered an everyday outfielder for the Mets one day. But for now he can join the ranks of Nieuwenhuis, Cesar Puello, Darrell Ceciliani and Cory Vaughn has exciting young outfield prospects to keep an eye on.
Matt Harvey, the Mets’ first-round pick last season from North Carolina, had his professional bubble burst last Tuesday.
The St. Lucie Met, who entered with a perfect 4-0, 0.00 ERA, was tagged for six runs – four earned – and nine hits with a walk and three strikeouts in just 4 1/3 innings of a 6-4 loss to Bradenton. He allowed just 14 hits in his first 22 innings.
His teammate, right-hander Jeurys Familia, followed suit the next day, allowing four runs and seven hits in four frames in a no-decision against Bradenton. He entered having allowed just one earned run in 25 2/3 innings.
Class AA Binghamton (7-13) manager Wally Backman had seen enough after his club lost its fourth straight game, 10-1, against Akron on Saturday.
“I’m embarrassed,” Backman said. “The players should be embarrassed. I know my staff is embarrassed. I’m very disappointed. You’ve got to compete. There are a couple of things in baseball you don’t need any ability to do, that’s compete and hustle. I’m not seeing it out of everybody.”
Binghamton is last in the 12-team Eastern League in runs (65), doubles (28) and triples (1), and 11th in OPS (.635) and walks (62).
Infielder Mike Fisher, a 26-year-old organization type, leads the team with a .327 batting average. He had a seven-game hitting streak snapped Saturday. He hit .407 during that streak.
The B-Mets are not the only farm team struggling at the plate. Savannah (9-14) in the low Class-A South Atlantic League is last in batting (.235) and runs (88). The San Gnats had a seven-game losing streak snapped this weekend.
AROUND THE MINORS: Buffalo’s Nieuwenhuis had his hitting streak snapped at 16 games (21 of 55, .382) last Tuesday but went 4-for-5 Sunday against Lehigh Valley on Sunday. The 23-year-old has reached base in 24 of 25 games, batting .330/.438/.591 with nine doubles, a triple, four homers and seven RBI. However, he’s just 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, but has fared well when behind in the count, batting .345 in those situations. … RHP Manny Alvarez, added to the 40-man roster over the winter, was demoted from Buffalo to Binghamton. He was 0-2 with a 10.29 ERA in seven relief appearances. … Buffalo OF Fernando Martinez, who returned from a hamstring injury last week, went 0-for-11 with six strikeouts in his last three games. 3B Zach Lutz (.308, 1 HR, 5 RBI) went on the DL with a hamstring injury … Savannah 3B Aderlin Rodriguez has rallied nicely from a 3-for-35 start. He has hit in eight straight games and homered in five of seven games during that stretch. The 19-year-old is batting .237 with team highs of five home runs and 17 RBI … St. Lucie (19-6) lost two straight for the first time this season Saturday and Sunday to Jupiter.