The Rising Apple staff chooses one player to highlight on our site for their outstanding or unique performance for the last week. If you have a nomination on who should be crowned as the Rising Apple Player of the Week, please let us know! You can leave us a comment, tweet us, or make a comment on Facebook.
All eyes are on Lucas Duda to have a solid season as left fielder for the New York Mets in 2013. After fracturing his wrist moving furniture in his Southern California apartment during the winter, he rehabbed quickly and reported to Port St. Lucie almost two weeks early to work on his approach at the plate with hitting coach Dave Hudgens. That approach didn’t work all that well, as Duda promptly went 0-for-7 with 6 strikeouts through his first two Grapefruit League games. So, he decided to go back to his old approach, and his bat has come alive, earning him his first Player of the Week honors of the season.
While Duda ranks fourth on the team with 59 at-bats this spring, he’s the club leader with 5 home runs and 12 RBI. In the past week, the left fielder has enjoyed three multi-hit games, and is hitting .389, which includes 4 extra-base hits (2 HR) and 5 RBI. This has been quit the month for Lucas, a he’s seen his batting average dip as low as .158 on March 7th, before seeing it reach a high point of .302 earlier this week. For the month of March, The Dude has abided, putting together a triple slash of .306/.358/.694 in 49 at-bats.
In watching Lucas this spring, I’ve been happy to see that even though he went back to his old stance/swing, his approach of staying through the middle of the field has remained the same. He’s big and strong enough that he doesn’t need to try and hit home runs, they’ll come naturally. We saw that happen in 2010 when he posted a .290 batting average. He can be a very good overall hitter, as long as he doesn’t try to force the issue. Throughout this month’s Grapefruit League schedule, I’ve constantly seen him hit balls either right back up the middle, or to either of the outfield gaps. If h keeps using the whole field, he will continue to be more consistent over the course of 162 games.
It remains to be seen how this success in camp will translate to the regular season; for some perspective, he hit .300/.386/.583 last spring, and we all know what happened once the regular season arrived. However, let’s not discount the fact that Duda is now a year older and more mature, has some more relevant experience in the outfield, while also looking more comfortable in left field than he ever did in right. For right now, the hopes are high that the progress he’s made during camp will spill over into next week and beyond, as he and his fellow outfielders are out to prove their critics wrong.
Here’s to you, Lucas. I hope we can keep watching you play like this when the games start to count. Thankfully, we’ll get to come back and do this again next week with the regular season finally underway!