As we continue toward the last few days of Rising Apple’s Year in Review series, we take a look at what Zach Lutz brought to the table in 2012. Despite ending the year with an injury, Lutz had a successful season, making his MLB debut with the Mets on April 24, 2012, getting his moment after five years of work since being drafted in the 5th round of the 2007 amateur draft. While his time in the Bigs wasn’t very long or fruitful, he did put together some solid numbers for the Buffalo Bisons in Triple-A.
How he Handled the Bat:
Zach got called up to the Mets for a short period of time at the end of April, and after being hitless in two pinch-hitting appearances against the Marlins, he earned the treasured memory of his first career hit in a start Terry Collins gave him in Colorado. That would prove to be the only hit he got with the Mets in 11 at-bats; he was included in the first round of September call-ups with Mike Nickeas, and was hitless in three more pinch-hit situations before injurying himself on a swing, which fractured his left hamate bone. The injury required season-ending surgery, followed by six weeks of rehab, allowing him to be ready for Spring Training in February.
Despite little playing time in the Big Leagues, Lutz had a great year for Wally Backman in Buffalo, as he put together a .295/.404/.496 line, including 11 home runs and 43 RBI in 264 at-bats and 78 games, while missing significant time with another injury there as well. What I noticed about his year in Triple-A was that his walk rate had improved (14.3% in ’12 vs. 10.8% in ’11), and his .391 BABIP is a career-high for him in any qualifying season. However, his strikeout rate continues to stay over 20% (25.5% in ’12), as it has in his last two qualifying seasons. He has collected four double-digit home run seasons in his minor league career, but other than hitting 17 bombs once, he hasn’t hit more than 11 in a season. So, if he wants to keep striking out that much, he’ll have to hit the ball out of the park. Or, just put the ball in play more often.
How he Handled the Glove
While being used mostly as a pinch-hitter in Flushing, Lutz didn’t get much of an opportunity to play the field. He played first base in the one start he made, and in 12 chances he recorded 10 putouts, 1 assist, and committed 1 error. Down in Buffalo, he spent most of his time playing third base (56 games), while sprinkling in some time at first as well (10 games). At the hot corner, he made 3 errors in 121 chances, good for a .975 fielding percentage. Although he’s not a spectacular defender, he could be used as a legitimate backup at both of the corner infield positions, specifically giving Ike Davis a day or two off against a tough southpaws (.321/.471/.453 vs LHP in ’12 in Triple-A).
Projected Role in 2013
Depending on who stays on the roster and who goes could have an impact on where he plays. If Ronny Cedeno doesn’t return (which looks likely) and someone like Lucas Duda gets traded away for more offense, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lutz was able to play his way into a backup role with the Mets in 2013. However, if Duda returns and Justin Turner is still around as well, there probably won’t be much room for him to get consistent playing time, so it would best suit him to be in Triple-A for the time being.
Contract Status and Trade Rumors
Lutz made $480K last season and is well under team control for the near future, with his contract looking like more of the same for next season. His solid season in Triple-A could have made him a possible piece in a trade this winter, but the two injuries he suffered in 2012 makes him unattractive to opposing teams.