Lucas Duda, To The Rescue
Is it a bird?…is it a plane?…no, it’s Lucas Duda. Duda is no stranger to the Mets this season, but he has been somewhat of a savior lately. The big lefty hitter made the Opening Day roster, but was optioned to Triple-A on April 11. He made two more similar trips before becoming a permanent fixture on June 10. The time toiling at Triple-A (combined .302/.414/.597 line) was with good measure, as since June 10, Duda has posted a sensational .307/.361/.489 line in the bigs (compared to his .100/.217/.150 line before).
Even with his earlier struggles, “The Dude” is still sporting a solid overall .278/.339/.438 line with 3 homeruns, 24 RBI, and 18 runs in 184 plate appearances. His 8.2 BB% isn’t terrible, and neither is his 14.7 K%. In addition, Duda’s .309 BABIP illustrates how sustainable his hitting ways have been. While he’s been tabbed as a future platoon player, to Duda’s credit, his .269/.321/.385 against left-handed pitching this season is perfectly solid– but he’ll need more than 29 plate appearances to solidify his success.
As a pure hitter, Duda has posted some impressive peripherals. The 25 year-old has only swung at 29.1% of pitches outsize the zone, while making contact with 70.3% of those non-strikes He also owns a very respectable 83.3% contact rate, similar to players like Carlos Beltran, Ryan Braun, Gaby Sanchez, and Adrian Gonzalez. The downside to Duda’s hitting ways so far has been his lack of power. He actually hit for more power last season (13.8 HR/FB) than he has this year (5.6% HR/FB). Considering Duda smacked 23 homeruns in 2010 between Double-A/Triple-A, the power is obviously there–it just needs to be seen at the Major League level.
The only outstanding issue with Lucas Duda is where to play him. Despite his tremendous effort, the lumbering 6’4″/255 lb. giant has proven to be an abysmal outfielder. In 320.6 career outfield innings (between 2010 and 2011), Duda has posted an awful -27.6 UZR/150. He’s had more luck at first base (1.8 UZR/150 in 234.6 innings), but once Ike Davis is back (more likely in 2012), the hot corner will no longer be an option. Unless the Mets decide to forfeit defense in right field next season, there’s a good chance Duda’s playing time will be limited.