Dykstra Makes Move To Center

By Dave Perkin

Having previously spent his high school career as a middle infielder, Cutter Dykstra of Westlake (Calif.) High has now made the switch to center field, emulating his dad, Lenny Dykstra.

Cutter Dykstra is attempting to get accustomed to center. Between pitches, Dykstra pantomimes catching and throwing the ball, as if to remind himself of the different mechanics between the infield and outfield.

His first few throws in the pregame were less than stellar. To his credit, Dykstra understood that he needed to adjust and later fired some nice pegs in practice and the game to home plate from short and medium center.

It must be noted that Cutter bats right and throws right, unlike Lenny, who was left handed all the way.

Any scout looking for a tall, long limbed, graceful Joe DiMaggio type centerfielder best look elsewhere. Both Cutter and his dad play baseball the way Jimmy Cagney played a hood in a 1930s black and white gangster flick: Short and scrappy, hustle like machine gun fire, short on social niceties but long on feisty attitude.

Cutter displays none of the endearing rough edges his dad exhibited. His hair is not tousled or matted; nor does a golf ball sized chunk of chew protrude from his lower cheek. This Dykstra is clean cut and wholesome looking, sort of a blonde version of David Wright.

Any discussion of Dykstra among local Southern California scouts inevitably centers on which position he will play in pro ball. His arm is sufficiently strong on short and medium length throws, but a hint of shoulder stiffness in his motion restricts the effectiveness of his longer throws. Left field, center and second base are all defensive candidates for Dykstra, but center field as his long term residence would be a safe bet. Dykstra’s fielding is acceptable and OFP is major league average.

All of this discussion ignores the fact that no matter what position he plays, the primary feature of Dykstra’s game will always be offense. He is a terrific athlete, as shown by his first place finish in the SPARQ rankings at the 2007 Area Code games in Long Beach, which included a blazing 6.58 60-yard dash timing.

Dykstra is an aggressive yet intelligent base runner, showing no qualms in challenging catchers and outfielders in stealing bags and taking the extra base. His leg churning, arm pumping, belly sliding, running style is a throwback to the Gashouse Gang and Pepper Martin.

At bat, Dykstra employs a square and balanced stance with a slight knee flex and a high hand position. His short, compact backswing and sweeping follow through will provide average if not slightly-above-average big league power. Dykstra handles the middle and inside pitch extremely well and can rip the ball both down and up in the strike zone. He will occasionally chase the high fastball out of the zone.

Dykstra struggles with the outside pitch, showing a tendency to stab or poke at a ball in that area. However, he should have little difficulty learning to handle the outside portion of the plate as he gains professional experience.

In this game, Dykstra showed his dad’s combativeness, becoming visibly upset after fouling off or missing pitches he knew he should hammer. After two singles, Dykstra whiffed on a high fastball in his third at bat.

Proving the old adage that you shouldn’t throw a good hitter the same pitch twice, Dykstra got a high fastball in his next at-bat and drove a 400-foot home run over the center field fence. The ball came to rest comfortably under a stately eucalyptus tree.

In their reports, scouts are asked to compare a prospect to a modern big leaguer. With Dykstra, Dustin Pedroia and David Eckstein come to mind. Dykstra is faster than either of those stars, and projects to have more power than both.

As a draftee, Dykstra is similar to Ryan Dent of Long Beach’s Wilson High, drafted in the first supplemental round in 2007 by the Red Sox. Both players are strong and speedy offense first players without an obvious defensive position.

Dykstra’s hit and power tools are more advanced than Dent’s at a similar stage of development, but Dykstra fits in the same general area of the June draft—first supplemental to the second round.

The older Dykstra, who in his post baseball career has made a fortune in the car washing business, was drafted in the 13th round by the Mets in 1981. With the tools and skills he possesses, it’s likely that his son won’t be waiting by the phone quite as long on draft day. And the younger Dykstra doesn’t figure to be working in a car wash any time soon.