A few quick thoughts on the Eddie Kunz-Allan Dykstra swap:
Eddie Kunz, as a pitcher, does nothing right: he can’t throw strikes, he doesn’t have a good enough breaking pitch to get strikeouts, he doesn’t have great stamina, his ground ball rates last year weren’t anything special, and his command of the written word is appalling. Any opportunity to get anything in return for him should be seized upon; Kunz was never going to be anything in the Mets organization.
Allan Dykstra, on the other hand, was a very interesting and often divisive prospect back in 2008, an odd draft class in that a ton of collegiate corner infielders went in the first round—Yonder Alonso, Justin Smoak, Brett Wallace, David Cooper, Ike Davis, and Dykstra. Dykstra had perhaps the best batting eye in his draft class, and his performance at Wake Forest was awe-inspiring. Many sabermetric types fell in love—2008 was the first draft I live blogged, and several fans in the audience vastly preferred him to Ike Davis.
But his swing was bizarre. Scouts felt there was no way he'd adapt to wood bats, that both the batting average and the power wouldn't show in the pros. And he needed both; he was a "third baseman" in college, but he had a strange body type, very bottom-heavy, marking him as a definite pro first baseman. I was not quite so harsh in my criticism, but I did grade him as a second-rounder with a chance to go in the supplemental if a team liked him. I had him ranked last among the six first basemen, well behind Davis. When the Padres snagged him with their first-round pick, my jaw dropped.
Thus far, the scouts have been right, though a balky hip lingering from his high school days has been partially to blame. An early inability to hit for contact at all—he hit .226 in his first full season—led to swing overhauls and depressed expectations. Even worse, the power many hoped would come from a man his size just hasn’t manifested.
Some might point to last year’s performance as an improvement; they’d probably be right, but it’s a very small one and it still adds up to a thoroughly mediocre final package. Dykstra hit an improved .241/.372/.438 last year, but the California League might be the best hitter’s league in all of baseball, even if Lake Elsinore does not host one of its most batter-friendly parks. Furthermore, Dykstra was not young for the league, and some numbers point to more trouble ahead: his raw walk rate, while still excellent, dropped considerably from the year before, and his strikeout rate jumped from a terrible 25.1% to an abysmal 31.6%. It's not a promising combination.
Maybe Sandy Alderson and company know something I don’t, or maybe Dykstra really aced the essay section of the test, but when you consider Dykstra’s age, surroundings, position, and lack of athleticism, it’s difficult to see someone who will succeed in Double-A. I don’t think he’s any more valuable to an organization than Eddie Kunz despite being two years younger, but I’ve been wrong before, and sometimes just not being Eddie Kunz is enough.
Added by Eric:
I asked Paul DePodesta for his thoughts on Dykstra (we know he liked him in 2008) and he had this to say about the patient first baseman:
"He’s always controlled the zone and has significant raw power. Even when he hasn’t hit for average, he’s been a productive offensive player. An important driver of the deal was that we have a better opportunity for Dykstra here than they had for him in San Diego, and they have a better opportunity for Eddie [Kunz] than we had here."