As the Mets continue to creep back into contention, their recent success has been fueled by unexpected sources. Captain David Wright has struggled since being diagnosed with a bruised left rotator cuff; veteran Bartolo Colon has produced good outings, but hasn’t quite been what the Mets had hoped for; offseason gamble Chris Young has been an enormous disappointment; and lefty Jonathon Niese has struggled in recent starts after a bout of arm trouble. But the Mets’ youngsters have come into their own, individually and as a group, just in time.
Jacob deGrom has placed himself in the Rookie of the Year conversation. Jenrry Mejia has taken hold of the closer’s job, at the back end of a bullpen that’s one of baseball’s best. Travis d’Arnaud has hit the ball well since briefly returning to triple-A. And Lucas Duda has proven he’s a legitimate cleanup hitter, as he continues to hit the ball hard and produce runs. The blossoming of the Mets’ youth movement has carried the team to within six games of the second wild-card position. They were even discussed as a potential buyer at the trade deadline, though they rightly avoided over-extending themselves just to make a move.
This year’s Mets don’t seem like they’re going to fade down the stretch, as they have in recent years. But they still have needs to address, particularly their left field situation. Nobody has distinguished himself enough to take firm hold of the position. Eric Young is a middling defender (albeit with exciting flashes) whose primary value lies in his presence at leadoff — where Curtis Granderson has become a daily presence. Kirk Nieuwenhuis is a great outfielder, but his approach at the plate is still too flawed. Chris Young has been awful. But as with Duda, the Mets’ left field solution might be in their own system in the person of Matt den Dekker.
In den Dekker, the Mets would be adding another outstanding defender to a defense that’s helped their pitching become a real strength. After struggling in his earlier visits to the majors, den Dekker is now destroying the ball in the Pacific Coast League. Granted, the PCL is a known hitter-friendly league, but den Dekker is one of the best hitters in the entire PCL, and that’s got to count for something. Den Dekker is fast, he’s got raw power and he’s an excellent defender. But if he can hit well enough to drive in runs from the fifth, sixth or seventh spot, the Mets might have their everyday left fielder. They also might continue to close the space between themselves and the second wild-card spot.