NEW YORK—The Mets consistently have praised Matt den Dekker's ability to handle center field on an everyday basis, touting him as a future Gold Glove candidate.
But after a rocky stint at Double-A Binghamton last summer, den Dekker's offensive potential came into question. He struck out nearly 30 percent of the time, batting .235/.312/.426 in 273 at-bats.
"Last year, I think it was just a little bit of a big jump for him," minor league field coordinator Dick Scott said.
Still, team officials cited reasons for optimism regarding den Dekker's batting potential. He still hit for power, and he hit into some bad luck.
His fortunes have improved in 2012. The 24-year-old earned a promotion to Triple-A Buffalo on June 11 after torching the Eastern League. He batted .339/.396/.564 in 236 at-bats for Binghamton and exited the league as the leader in average, slugging, hits (80), doubles (21), extra-base hit (33) and runs scored (47).
A fifth-round pick from Florida in 2010, den Dekker must continue to prove his bat belongs. If he can hit, he'll elevate his profile from outfield reserve to potential regular.
In late March, as they grappled with injuries to Andres Torres and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, the Mets considered den Dekker an option as Opening Day center fielder. Both players regained their health and den Dekker returned to Binghamton.
"He plays a premier position," Scott said. "He runs well. He throws well.
"He's really getting more consistent with his approach, and understanding a little bit more of what it takes to be a leadoff hitter. He has an idea of what's expected there. He still has a lot to work on. But he's really made a lot of strides in a year's time."
• Lefty reliever Jack Leathersich might be the first Mets player from last year's draft to reach the majors. The fifth-rounder earned a late-May promotion to high Class A St. Lucie, where he struck out 20 through 13 innings.
• High school shortstop Gavin Cecchini, drafted 12th overall in June, signed for $2.3 million and will suit up for Rookie-level Kingsport this summer.