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Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Farm report: Gnat with defensive knack

By Adam Rubin

Matt den Dekker’s college bio tabs him as the top defensive outfielder in the University of Florida baseball program’s history. Now, the fifth-round pick from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has taken that skill to the New York Mets. His bat has done quite nicely since turning pro following the June draft, too.

Den Dekker has hit safely in eight of his nine games since joining Savannah. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound center fielder owns a .412 average with seven RBIs through 34 at-bats in the South Atlantic League.

Only den Dekker and Alabama’s Jake Smith had been named all-Southeastern Conference defensive selections three straight seasons. Den Dekker suggested he patterns his game after Cleveland Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore.

“That’s one of my favorite players,” he said. “I love watching him play. I think of myself as a similar player to him. He’s a great defensive player, and offensively he’s pretty good, too.”

The lefty-hitting, lefty-throwing den Dekker had been drafted in the 16th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates after a disappointing junior season at the plate in 2009, when he hit .257 in SEC play. He opted to return to the University of Florida for his senior year and was rewarded by helping lead the Gators to their first College World Series appearance since 2005.

“I wrestled with it a little bit,” den Dekker said about the deliberations between signing with the Pirates a year ago or remaining in college. “I wasn’t really feeling good after my junior year. I didn’t have the greatest year that I’d like to have. I felt like I had a lot to go back and work on.”

As for the subsequent College World Series reward, den Dekker added: “We didn’t really play that well. We lost our two games there. But the opening ceremonies and being the last year there [at historic Rosenblatt Stadium] -- all the memories and being a part of that -- was something special for me.”

Den Dekker wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school. In fact, the University of Florida’s recruiting coordinator became interested in him while visiting the school to observe den Dekker’s cousin, Kevin Chapman. Chapman also ended up enrolling at Florida. He signed with the Kansas City Royals as a fourth-round selection this June, a round before den Dekker was selected.  Chapman is currently pitching with high-A Wilmington, where he has made 10 relief appearances.

“He was going to Florida, and the recruiting coordinator came to the game and saw me play and I had a pretty good game,” den Dekker recalled. “We grew up together. Pretty much our whole lives we lived around each other. It was cool us being drafted so close together. It was a big day for our families. Our families are real close. We all live down in South Florida. It was really exciting for everybody in our family.”

As for his surname, den Dekker’s father was born in the Netherlands and moved to San Diego as a child.

“I actually got to go to the Netherlands a couple of years ago with the USA team,” den Dekker said. “It was a pretty cool experience. Everybody knows my name, and just kind of cheered for me because I was Dutch.”

Organization leaders

Average: Darrell Ceciliani, Brooklyn, .364; Javier Rodriguez, Kingsport, .327; Joe Bonfe, Brooklyn, .323; Josh Satin, Binghamton, .322; Justin Schafer, Brooklyn, .311; J.B. Brown, Brooklyn, .309; Cory Vaughn, Brooklyn, .308; Lucas Duda, Buffalo, .305.

Homers: Lucas Duda, Buffalo, 23; Sean Ratliff, Binghamton, 20; Nick Evans, Buffalo, 19; Mike Hessman, Buffalo, 18; Kirk Niewenhuis, Buffalo, 17.

RBIs: Lucas Duda, Buffalo, 86; Wilmer Flores, St. Lucie, 75; Sean Ratliff, Binghamton, 74; Nick Evans, Buffalo, 68; Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Buffalo, 68.

Steals: Cesar Puello, Savannah, 45; Pedro Zapata, St. Lucie, 33; Juan Lagares, St. Lucie, 25; Emmanuel Garcia, St. Lucie, 18; Darrell Ceciliani, Brooklyn, 18.

ERA: Yohan Almonte, Brooklyn, 1.73; Angel Cuan, Brooklyn, 1.93; Jimmy Fuller, St. Lucie, 2.32; Mark Cohoon, Binghamton, 2.79; Brandon Moore, St. Lucie, 2.98; Wesley Wrenn, Brooklyn, 3.10; Marcos Camarena, GCL Mets, 3.19; Pat Misch, Buffalo, 3.23; Eric Beaulac, St. Lucie, 3.35; Armando Rodriguez, Savannah, 3.39.

Wins: Dillon Gee, Buffalo, 12; Pat Misch, Buffalo, 11; Josh Stinson, Binghamton, 9; Mark Cohoon, Binghamton, 9.

Saves: Michael Powers, St. Lucie, 15; Manuel Alvarez, Binghamton, 14; Ryan Fraser, Brooklyn, 9; Jose Bierd, St. Lucie, 8.

Strikeouts: Brandon Moore, St. Lucie, 138; Dillon Gee, Buffalo, 136; Armando Rodriguez, Savannah, 125; Mike Antonini, Buffalo, 115; Jeurys Familia, St. Lucie, 113.

Short hops

The Mets signed 30-year-old right-hander Yhency Brazoban and assigned him to Triple-A Buffalo. The ex-Dodger had appeared in 32 games in the Mexican League this season, where he had compiled a 3-2 record, 1.25 ERA and two saves in 43 1/3 innings for the Mexico City Red Devils. He was 10-12 with a 4.70 ERA in 116 games with the Dodgers from 2004-08, and set L.A. rookie records for appearances (75) and saves (21) in ’05. He originally was signed by the Yankees, and was traded to the Dodgers in December 2003 in a deal that brought Kevin Brown to the Bronx. … In addition to signing first-round pick Matt Harvey for $2.525 million at Monday’s midnight deadline, the Mets also inked sixth-round pick Greg Peavey from Oregon State. The Mets signed their top 19 picks, and 31 selections in total. Harvey, 21, was 8-3 with a 3.09 ERA in 14 games with the University of North Carolina during his junior season. Peavey went 6-3 with a 3.64 ERA in 15 starts spanning 99 innings with the Beavers. … The Brooklyn Cyclones, who had the most representatives in Tuesday’s New York-Penn League All-Star Game at Staten Island, had a quiet night as the National League was four-hit in a 4-3 loss. Right fielder Cory Vaughn had one of the NL’s hits and scored when teammate Joe Bonfe reached on a fourth-inning throwing error. NL starter Yohan Almonte of Brooklyn tossed a scoreless first inning. Cyclones teammate Angel Cuan struck out the side in the fourth. … Lucas Duda lost an 11-game hitting streak Sunday at Pawtucket, but the seventh-round pick in 2007 out of the University of Southern California has continued remarkable production. Duda has an organization-high 23 homers between Binghamton and Buffalo. Since his Triple-A debut on June 14, Duda is hitting .320 with 17 homers and 52 RBIs in 54 games with the Bisons. A natural first baseman, Duda is starting to make strides in left field while working with Buffalo hitting coach Jack Voigt on reads and routes. … Fernando Nieve’s fastball topped out at 96-97 mph in his fourth start since returning to Buffalo. Nieve allowed three runs in 6 2/3 innings against Pawtucket on Monday. He is 2-0 with a 4.19 ERA in four starts for the Bisons. … Left-hander Raul Valdes threw 69 pitches in 4 2/3 innings Sunday after returning to Buffalo following relief work at the major league level. Valdes took a scoreless effort into the fifth, when he ran out of gas and was charged with three runs. … Left-hander Robert Carson picked up his first win in six Double-A starts since a promotion from St. Lucie. The victory came in an 11-9 win against Reading on Sunday, despite Carson surrendering five runs on 11 hits in five innings. Carson is 1-4 with a 7.71 ERA with the B-Mets. … Eric Campbell, who broke a pinkie getting hit with a pitch with Binghamton on June 22, rejoined the B-Mets on Tuesday and was assigned to left field. With Raul Reyes being demoted to St. Lucie, and perhaps eventually headed to Savannah for the Gnats’ South Atlantic League playoffs, Campbell -- generally a corner infielder -- joined Brahiam Maldonado and Sean Ratliff in an otherwise thin B-Mets outfield. ... B-Mets third baseman Zach Lutz, who has been tormented by stress fractures in both feet during his professional career, was forced to leave last Wednesday’s game against Harrisburg after one at-bat with at least a minor recurrence of foot trouble. Josh Satin took over at third base. Lutz has not reappeared in a game. … Right-hander Jenrry Mejia had his longest start in the minors this season, tossing 95 pitches Friday. Three of the four runs he allowed in 5 2/3 innings against Reading were unearned, although it was Mejia who committed a pair of second-inning errors. … Savannah right-hander Armando Rodriguez leads the South Atlantic League in strikeouts with 125 and ranks third in innings pitched with 130. … Savannah shortstop Robbie Shields -- the Mets’ third-round pick in 2009, who is returning from Tommy John surgery -- hit safely in eight of nine games (.342) before going hitless in four at-bats Tuesday against Augusta. … Brooklyn left-hander Nelson Pereira tossed five no-hit innings in a spot start Sunday and departed having reached his pitch count in what became a 14-inning game. Pereira appeared in the New York-Penn League in 2009 with State College. He then was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. … St. Lucie won for only the fourth time in 27 games on Tuesday. One bright spot: Hard-throwing Jeurys Familia has allowed a combined one run on 11 hits while striking out 18 and walking two in 13 2/3 innings over his past two starts.

Adam Rubin’s farm report appears Wednesdays during the season