Over the weekend, on Sunday night to be specific, the Binghamton Mets announced that the Eastern League had named manager Pedro Lopez the Manager of the Year and 1B Allan Dykstra the AA League’s MVP.
From a value perspective with the bat, Dykstra is a worthy choice. Over the full season, he was the most productive hitter on the League’s best team. (I suspect had he played, and hit well in August, this would have been Cesar Puello’s award.) The 26-year-old Dykstra hit .274/.436/.503 with 22 doubles, 21 homruns, 102 walks and 123 strikeouts in 122 games. It’s a modest credit to the award’s voters that they looked past Dykstra’s sub-.300 batting average to pick the guy leading the League in on-base percentage and slugging, (and walks, who was fourth in RBI and tied for fifth in homeruns).
In advanced metrics, Dykstra was #1 in the Eastern League in both wOBA (.423) and wRC+ (163).
This was the third go-round in AA for Dykstra, who hit .267/.389/.474 with 22 doubles and 19 homeruns at age 24 in Binghamton in 121 games in 2011. The major change for him in the last two three years statistically is that he moved his walk rate from a strong 14.5% in 2011 to an extremely discipline 20.9% in 2013. His power output was similar.
The Mets acquired Allan Dykstra for Eddie Kunz in a swap of disappointing first round draft picks in March of 2011. The Padres plucked Dykstra 23rd overall in 2008 out of Wake Forest while the Mets grabbed Kunz 42nd out of Oregon State in 2007. Kunz was released by the Padres this spring after a 6.35 ERA in 21 games last year with a 12/20 K/BB. By any measure, whether Dykstra ever becomes a real big leaguer, the Mets have already won the trade.
So, can Dykstra be a useful big leaguer?
Here is a sampling of questions I received over email and twitter this weekend.
By email, Mark asked of Dykstra: “could he be the mets version evan gattis? great obp. if he is thank you eddie kunz”
@tobyhyde Toby you think Dykstra gets a look after AA playoffs?
— J.D. McNugent (@JDMcNugentMets) September 1, 2013
As far as Mark’s question, Gattis is a few months younger than Dykstra and despite his wonderful story is now down to .238/.298/.469 in 80 games in the big leagues. Since July 1, his power has disappeared as he’s hit .215/.263/.280 in 27 games with a two-week trip to the DL and a short trip to AAA Gwinnett over the weekend. As far as profile, Dykstra is a higher walk rate guy with less raw power than Gattis, but Gattis’ case provides a great warning about counting on guys who make their MLB debuts at age 26 or later.
As far as J.D.’s question, will Dykstra get big league time after the Eastern League playoffs end, barring more Mets’ injuries, the answer is: “wildly unlikely.”
Why? Dykstra is big, 6’5″, 240 pounds and old for the Eastern League. His bat is slow. He’s succeeded on strength and approach in the minors. He’s a well below average runner limited to first or DH duties. He’s been a similar hitter for three years, although his walk rate has climbed more recently. He still strikes out in over 25% of his AA plate appearances. Ask Kirk Nieuwenhuis what happens to high strikeout guys in the upper minors when they get to the big leagues. Plugging Dykstra’s 2013 numbers into the handy Minor League Equivalency Calculator yields an MLB line of .197/.329/.342 in 404 AB. That’s not playable at first base. Basically, he would run into some balls, but MLB pitchers, and their fastballs, would eat him up.
Put simply, I believe Dykstra will not be an everyday player in the big leagues. Perhaps, he can be a bench bat, but teams rarely carry true 1B-only bench bats.
Now for the roster considerations. First, the Mets already have a better version of Dykstra playing first in Lucas Duda who crushed AA and AAA at age 24. Second, Dykstra is not on the Mets’ 40-man roster, which is currently full. The Mets could certainly make space in the short term by moving Matt Harvey to the 60-day DL for example. I do not believe Dykstra would be eligible to be a minor league free agent until after the 2014 season. Adding Dykstra now only limits the Mets’ choices in terms of adding other players this off-season, and of course protects him from the Rule 5 draft.
Dykstra has certainly earned a promotion to AAA for 2014. However, AA success at age 26, and the way he has done it, do not indicate that he is a big league piece moving forward.