One of the side effects of the Braves system being so loaded with talent- both from a quality and quantity standpoint, is the fact that there are some very intriguing prospects who don’t get the attention they deserve. One of those guys happens to be Rome 2B Luke Dykstra, a player who has done nothing but hit.
Part of the reason that Dykstra is sometimes overlooked is because he plays second base. A common thought among both Braves fans and the media is that the “loser” of the Dansby Swanson/Ozzie Albies battle will eventually be the club’s man at the keystone position.
However it would be a mistake to overlook the son of Lenny Dykstra, the guy who played a huge hand in the Phillies 1993 NLCS upset. Luke has some similarities to his father’s game in that he has a feel for hitting and has excellent baseball instincts. Like his father, power is not a big part of Luke’s game- which is the other reason he gets overlooked a bit. Neither Dykstra has the loudest tools, but they are both in the “gamer” mold.
Despite being young for the South Atlantic League at just 20 years old, Dykstra is hitting .320 on the year for Rome. Though his overall triple slash line isn’t quite as impressive with a .354 OBP and .377 SLG. However he’s hitting .340 in the month of June and has seen his average go from .283 on May 13th to his current .320. More importantly he’s one of the most clutch players in the organization with runners in scoring position.
.@TheRomeBraves Luke Dykstra is batting .625 with runners at 3rd this year.— Josh Brown (@santoniobrown) June 11, 2016
In addition to hitting .625 with runners at third, Dykstra’s triple slash line moves way up in clutch situations, hitting .364/.417/.485 with 2 outs and runners in scoring position. He may not be a power guy, but Dykstra is certainly a guy you want up at the plate in a big spot late in the game.
Here is some video of a Dykstra at bat resulting in a base hit off Columbia(Mets) pitcher Andrew Church. This video taken on 5/30, when Dykstra went 3-4 with three singles, is courtesy of Astro Parton of Astromets Mind- a good source of some prospect scouting videos of the Rome team.
This video shows Dykstra’s feel for hitting. He was leading off the 6th inning and took a called strike on the first pitch instead of just swinging at the first pitch, showing a planned approach. He was about to swing at the second pitch until he picked up on the movement away from him, stopping his swing before he came around and taking a ball outside. This shows he has a better eye at the plate than his walk totals would indicate(more on that later). Then the third pitch shows Church pitch to the inner half, where Dykstra is able to turn on the ball and pull it with a line drive to left field for a single.
Dykstra doesn’t walk much- he’s walked just 5 times in 228 at bats this year. A quick look at the stats would be concerning if you were just scouting the stat line. As long as a player comes up to the plate with a plan of attack and is able to pick up pitches with his eye, they don’t need to post a high walk rate to be an efficient hitter. Big walk numbers are nice, but some guys have great natural baseball instincts with the ability to work a count and consistently put the ball into play. That’s exactly what Dykstra does, as he has struck out in just 19 of those 228 at bats and makes a ton of contact.
Above is the spray chart for Dykstra courtesy of MLBFarm.com, a great site for minor league data. It shows you a ton based on his balls in play. As you can see by the ground balls and balls that didn’t get out of the infield as well as the lack of deep in the outfield landing spots, the power isn’t there at all. He does have a very large number of singles, and as you can see by the way they are spread around he is comfortable enough to either pull the ball or go to the opposite field. All 13 of his extra base hits have gone for doubles.
As an offensive player he reminds me a bit of Omar Infante and not only because both guys play second base. During Infante’s time with the Braves he hit for a high average at .309. Infante, especially in his first two years as a Brave, didn’t show much power, nor did he have a high rate of walks or strikeouts. He was the kind of player who consistently put the ball in play, got on base, and did a good job of coming through with runners in scoring position. Which sounds a lot like Dykstra.
Dykstra is a bit more of a threat to steal bases than what Infante did with the Braves, but he’s not going to post 30+ steals like his father did. I also expect him to grow into a little more power as he fills out a little more, but I expect that power to come more as gap power than home run power.
I see no reason why he can’t eventually become a solid starting second baseman at the big league level with a triple slash line similar to Infante’s combined 2008 and 2009 numbers of .298/.347/.406.