This past week, MLB.com revealed its Top 50 Prospects for 2011 and I was a little surprised to see that there were no Mets included. Granted, I didn’t think they would be lighting up the leader board, but I thought there would be at least one-maybe Jennry Mejia. It got me thinking more about the Mets farm system, and I still believe there is hope for the young Amazins. Today, I look at Lucas Duda.
Listed at 6’5, 240 pounds, Duda is a big-well, dude. He looks like a slugging lefty, which describes him well. In 2008, Duda was 22, playing for Class A St. Lucie in his second minor league season. That year, he hit .263/.358/.398 with 11 home runs in 559 plate appearances (one long ball per 50.8 PA), but he also struck out a whopping 129 times. 2009 saw him hit nine homers in 467 PA (one homer per 51.89 PA) at Double A Binghamton, while his batting line improved to .281/.380/.428 and his strikeout total dropped to 91. 2010 though was the breakout year for Duda. Splitting time between Binghamton and Triple A Buffalo, Duda smacked 23 long balls in 495 PA (one homer per 21.5 PA), while batting .304/.398/.569 (his OPS at Buffalo was actually .999). The success earned Duda a September call up.
Duda’s big league career got off to a slow start. He went one for this first 33 with four walks and ten strikeouts (even though his one hit was an RBI double). However, after that stretch Duda finally got comfortable, going 16 for 51 (a .314 clip) with four homers and five doubles (.647 slugging percentage). Overall, he hit .202/.261/.417 with the four homers, but clearly he showed his offensive talent after he got his feet wet, hitting onr home run every 13.75 plate appearances after his horrific start. The true distances on his long balls were 428, 376, 408 and 420 feet, all to right field. Even with this small sample size, it seems obvious that he projects as a dead pull, power hitter
The big lefty only had 19 Major League plate appearances vs. southpaws, recording three hits (two doubles) and striking out seven times. However, while in the minors in 2010, he hit a respectable .244/.323/500 with five home runs. Putting up similar numbers against lefties at the big league level will help Duda succeed.
Defensively, don’t expect Duda to win any Gold Gloves. Duda played mainly first base and left field in the minors, but saw much more action in left field as time went along. He played exclusively in left field with the Mets last year and did not commit an error in 33 chances (he even had one assist), while managing to save one run. However, he just never looked that fluid in the outfield, and his range might always be in question.
So what becomes of Duda? It seems like he’ll be starting next year at Triple A, but his biggest problem will be that he is blocked in left field by Jason Bay for the next three years, and by Ike Davis at first base potentially forever. There is no question Duda has the raw power to make it in the big leagues, but whether or not he can find a place to play on the Mets roster is unclear. The roadblocks might make Duda an intriguing trade chip, but he also could fill the left handed power bat off the bench role, which would make him an asset to the team in the short run.