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Roster review: Matt den Dekker

Nov 14, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

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Age on Opening Day 2016: 28

How acquired: Traded from Mets for LHP Jerry Blevins, March 2015

MLB service time: 1 year, 33 days

2015 salary+bonuses: $512,972

Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2018, free agent in 2021

2015 stats: 55 G, 110 PA, 12 R, 25 H, 6 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 0 SB, 9 BB, 20 SO, .253 AVG, .315 OBP, .485 SLG, .800 OPS, 1 E, -1.1 UZR, 0.6 WAR

Quotable: “He’s a talented player. He’s got good power. He can run well. He’s got a strong arm. Plays all three outfield positions. He’s got a bright future. And we are so right-handed-dominant that he fits. He fits here and hits from the other side of the plate and has ability.” — Matt Williams on Matt den Dekker

2015 analysis: Quick: Guess who had the second-highest OPS among all Nationals with at least 100 plate appearances this season. Yes, Matt den Dekker. Only Bryce Harper was more productive. Den Dekker’s production, of course, came in a limited sample. And most of that came in September.

The outfielder, acquired at the end of spring training for Jerry Blevins, made three brief stints in D.C. over the season’s first five months, hitting just .184 with a .606 OPS. But while playing at Class AAA Syracuse, he made some adjustments to his swing, most notably adding a higher leg kick. The result: More power and more production.

Given a chance to play a bit more in September, den Dekker showed off that new swing and impressed club officials. He hit .320 with a .990 OPS over his final 29 games, with three homers and six doubles. In the process, he opened up more than a few eyes and stated his case for a permanent spot on next year’s roster.

2016 outlook: The Nationals need a reliable fourth outfielder who could be trusted to step in and play on a regular basis if Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper or Michael Taylor gets hurt. Preferably, that player would be a left-handed hitter. Sure sounds like den Dekker fits that bill, right?

Not necessarily. The Nationals may want somebody with a more proven track record (ie. Gerardo Parra). The question is whether they want to pay good money to acquire a free agent to hold that role, something they did two years ago with Nate McLouth (who proved to be a complete bust).

Given the fact den Dekker will come significantly cheaper — he’ll make only slightly more than the MLB minimum in 2016 — there is a strong argument for letting him take that job. The Nationals would be banking on his strong September being evidence of his full capabilities, which is a gamble. If nothing else, the 28-year-old has earned the opportunity to prove what he can do next season.

  1. Whack-A-Mule - Nov 14, 2015 at 6:26 AM

    Mark Says: – “The Nats need a reliable 4th outfielder who could be trusted
    to step in and play on a regular basis . . .”

    A perfect description of Michael A. Taylor at this point in his career.
    At this stage in his career, with his multiple offensive liabilities,
    he is not the starting center fielder for a championship-calibre team.

    Keep shopping, Mike.

    • chaz11963 - Nov 14, 2015 at 11:12 AM

      Yes, I will be shocked if MAT is our starting CF. I love the kid and he has great upside, but he needs a lot more polishing. He is a perfect 4th OF to along with denDekker

  2. Joe Seamhead - Nov 14, 2015 at 7:30 AM

    MdD not only added a bit of leg kick, he also changed the angle of how he was holding his bat in his stance.He re-worked his overall swing. I still see him as a bench player.

  3. rgsie - Nov 14, 2015 at 7:37 AM

    I like him. Keep Him!!! Thumbs Up!!!

  4. natsfan1a - Nov 14, 2015 at 8:48 AM

    Well, said, Nats. Well said.

    https://twitter.com/Nationals

  5. veejh - Nov 14, 2015 at 9:45 AM

    Right now we have 1 #1 outfielder and 3 #4s in Werth, MAT, and MdD. Oy. Could MdD eventually become a 2 or a 3, yes, but he needs more time.

    • Section 222 - Nov 14, 2015 at 4:35 PM

      I’m with you on the 3 #4s. I think the chances of MAT becoming a 2 or a 3 with time are higher. But MdD is a good guy to have on the bench though because of his speed, and especially if his pop sticks around. Good pickup by Rizzo, but let’s not pretend he might be a starter someday.

  6. Doc - Nov 14, 2015 at 10:02 AM

    Both about the same age, and Parra comes with the better track record.

    But den Decker’s stock is on the rise and I’m one of his fans. He’s a great 4th OF, and at this point could full-time replace anyone in the Nats’ OF not named Harper. As den Decker adjusted his batting stance, Rizzo got a steal of a deal—–mostly by luck.

    Parra no, den Decker yes!

    • senators5 - Nov 14, 2015 at 10:39 AM

      Agree, unlike MAT, this guy puts his bat on the ball and clearly is a Dusty type of player, I am not done with MAT but until he learns to make contact,he is better off as a double switch guy and PR off the bench

    • infideljack - Nov 14, 2015 at 11:11 AM

      +5

    • infideljack - Nov 14, 2015 at 11:12 AM

      Agree +5

  7. edshelton2013 - Nov 14, 2015 at 11:41 AM

    Matt D. is a plus defender at all three OF positions and a good baserunner.
    He hit 5 HRs in only 110 ABs. That projects to 25 if he ever got 500 ABs.

  8. DaveB - Nov 14, 2015 at 12:41 PM

    Trade for CarGo or sign Zobrist … we need more than just Werth / MAT / MdD

    • donniebenth - Nov 14, 2015 at 12:58 PM

      Sign Heyward, Zobrist and a middle reliever.

      Ramos
      Zimm
      Zobrist
      Escobar
      Rendon
      Harper
      Heyward
      Werth

      Bench

      Espinosa
      Matt dd
      Robinson
      Taylor

      Start two lefties in outfield against RH pitching. Werth and Zimm have to get used to a bit of a platoon.

      • donniebenth - Nov 14, 2015 at 1:04 PM

        Oops. Forgot Lobaton

      • Doc - Nov 14, 2015 at 1:25 PM

        Looks good.

        If we’re gonna beat da Metsies, it will have to be with our bats. No way we out-pitch them.

      • chaz11963 - Nov 14, 2015 at 2:20 PM

        You’re going to start Escobar at SS??? He has no range. I don’t see how he can play SS for a playoff contender.

      • hersheyman - Nov 14, 2015 at 4:07 PM

        I agree with Chaz. Escobar cannot be your starting SS. No way does he have the range. He is the guy you trade for some middle relief or closer. I’d have Danny E take over at SS, a really terrific defensive player with decent offence for a SS at this point.

      • Section 222 - Nov 14, 2015 at 6:46 PM

        A bit of a platoon? There are at least 2 RH starters for every lefty. So you’d play MdD 2/3 of the time and Werth 1/3? Same for Robinson/Zim?

        I’m all for resting Werth alot of Zim quite a bit. But a platoon? No.

  9. Eugene in Oregon - Nov 14, 2015 at 1:47 PM

    Depends a bit on how you define a 4th vs. a 5th OF. I’m perfectly comfortable with Matt den Dekker in the role of a fill-in for a few inning or a few games. If one of the starters gets hurt (i.e., goes on the DL), I don’t see him as someone you move into the starting line-up for any extended period of time. Much more comfortable with Gerardo Parra (or someone similar) in that role.

  10. Candide - Nov 14, 2015 at 1:57 PM

    Cunegonde and I went to the Nats Park Fan Photo tour today and ran into MicheleS!

    Cunegonde’s seated right, MicheleS seated left.

    • Section 222 - Nov 14, 2015 at 3:25 PM

      Cool pic. Sounds like a good time.

    • MicheleS - Nov 15, 2015 at 1:26 PM

      What a fun day!

  11. natfan33 - Nov 14, 2015 at 2:06 PM

    Why is everyone so crazy about Parra? Didn’t he bat .220 last year?

    • Doc - Nov 14, 2015 at 2:39 PM

      Correctomundo! Or close to that!

      Also, Matt Upper Decker has more power!

      • pdowdy83 - Nov 14, 2015 at 3:14 PM

        Not correct. He hit .220 for the Os but hit .328 with an .886 ops for the Brewers in 351 plate appearances for an overall .291 average with an OPS of .780.

      • pdowdy83 - Nov 14, 2015 at 3:15 PM

        He also hit 14 Homers last year so I’m not positive den Dekker has more power either.

        My only issue with Parra is his price tag.

  12. letswin3 - Nov 14, 2015 at 2:10 PM

    I would like to see Rizzo go get Heyward to play RF. Then move Harper to CF and leave Werth in LF, but with fewer starts. That would work serve to replace Span as a lefty in the lineup and provide additional protection somewhere in the lineup, depending upon where Heyward would hit in the order. I like both DD and MAT as bench players, but I’m not sure there is room for both relative to getting enough AB’s to stay sharp.

    • chaz11963 - Nov 14, 2015 at 2:23 PM

      Heyward would be good but not ideal. He is still not the bat we need to hit behind Harper. I think J Upton is the best fit.

      • pdowdy83 - Nov 14, 2015 at 3:17 PM

        Chris Davis in RF would look good to me too. That’s a lot of power.

      • hersheyman - Nov 14, 2015 at 4:06 PM

        Agreed. Harper is not a long-term solution in CF. The only issue with Upton is that he is another right-handed bat.

  13. Section 222 - Nov 14, 2015 at 4:06 PM

    Matt dD played well in September, and I’d be fine with him in the 5th OF spot. His new found pop is very welcome off the bench.

    I hope Rizzo is looking not for a 4th OF (Parra), but for a 3rd OF (Gordon, Heyward, or JUpton). I just don’t think Werth is an every day player anymore. That doesn’t mean bench him, but I’d like to see a rotation between Werth, the new outfielder and perhaps MAT so that everyone Bryce plays every day, the new OF plays most of the time, and MAT and Werth play a fair amount but less than the others. Kind of like what Collins did when Cespedes joined the team and he had Granderson, Lagares, Cuddyer, Conforto, and Cespedes to work into the lineup and did so quite effectively using L/R matchups, late inning defensive replacements, etc..

  14. jfmii - Nov 14, 2015 at 5:14 PM

    pdowdy83, Chris Davis is a statue in RF

  15. unkyd59 - Nov 14, 2015 at 6:06 PM

    I’m the outlier here, but I want MAT to be the starting CF, and batting low in the order. He needs the constant reps on defense, and the only way he cuts down on the Ks, and improves his contact is to hit every day. I LOVE his compact swing, and I think he has a chance to be a very good hitter.

    Yes… Yes, it is lonely out here…lol

    • chaz11963 - Nov 14, 2015 at 6:12 PM

      I would agree, except this is a Win Now team still. I don’t think we can use it as MAT’s training.

  16. edshelton2013 - Nov 14, 2015 at 8:36 PM

    unkyd:
    So, who leads off if you put MAT low in the order? Rendon? Trade?

    • unkyd59 - Nov 14, 2015 at 11:04 PM

      Rendon or Werth could hold the place, until Turner comes up in May/June… TT could be raking by late June. After that I could see him and JW at the top, with some combination of Zim, Harp and Tony at 3,4,5… If there a good batting coach staying on these guys, they could wear a lot of pitchers out by the fifth inning…

      • unkyd59 - Nov 14, 2015 at 11:08 PM

        And if that leaves Espi, Ramos and MAT, at the bottom, I don’t think it’s a forgone conclusion that they all bat .250 or worse… Obviously not nearly as good as we hope the top will be, but…. We’ll see…

  17. infideljack - Nov 15, 2015 at 12:14 PM

    Werth LF, Harper CF, den D RF, MAT Harrisburg.
    Rendon 3B, Espinosa SS, Turner 2B, RZim 1B
    Lobaton C, Severino C, Ramos Trade
    SP Mad Max, Stras, Lefty Gonzalez, Joe Ross, Tanner Roark
    BP Stammen, ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

    • unkyd59 - Nov 15, 2015 at 4:54 PM

      Jack, MAT has nothing left to prove in the minors… Now is his time.

      • senators5 - Nov 15, 2015 at 10:51 PM

        I would agree BUT and I do mean BUT, MAT,s time now and if he does not significantly improve his contact skills, cut him loose before the summer trading deadline.

  18. bigcat492 - Nov 16, 2015 at 9:53 AM

    I think Den Dekkers new swing is that “Baseball Rebellion” stufff High leg kick, getting weight out on front foot etc

  19. langleyclub - Nov 16, 2015 at 10:33 AM

    Not as big of Jason Heyward fan as some others.

    The last two years Heyward had over 600 plate appearances and hit 11 and 13 HRs. In the middle of a productive lineup he drove in 58 and 60 RBI the last tow years (those numbers are less than MAT with 20% fewer PAs). I like that Heyward is a left-handed bat, and he is a great defensive OF (so, is MAT), but Heyward turned down $15.8 million; so, to sign him, the minimum commitment is going to be in the 4 year $75 to 85 million range (maybe more). I just don’t see paying that much for a corner OF with only decent power and just does not produce a lot of runs.

    • senators5 - Nov 16, 2015 at 7:45 PM

      I totally agree with you about Heyward. What’s his K and backward K totals?

  20. hummel26 - Nov 16, 2015 at 10:48 AM

    Keep den Dekker. Good defense and maybe improving offense. Moore hurts you everywhere you put him, so he’s got to go. MdD is a good 4th OF, spot starter, but others are right that Nats need more. Need a solid 3rd OF. Put Werth in 4th/5th spot, give him 80-100 games. Too bad there’s no DH, that’s what Werth should be.

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