Mets Season In Review: Lucas Duda

By Rich Sparago

Today’s player review focuses on Lucas Duda. Duda had another enigmatic campaign in 2013. He spent the major-league portion of his season in left field and first base, also had some time on the disabled list after straining his oblique in June, and even did a stint (post rehab) in AAA Las Vegas. It’s hard to know exactly what the Mets have in Duda. The team wants him to be a high on-base percentage hitter, who hits for power and drives in runs. However, while Duda has shown glimpses of being that player, he has also gone through prolonged periods of being unproductive offensively. Let’s take a look at Lucas Duda by the numbers in 2013.

Sep 4, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York Mets left fielder Lucas Duda (21) catches a foul ball for an out in the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

How He Did At The Plate:

Last year, Duda hit .223 over 318 official at-bats. He had an on-base percentage of .352, and an OPS of .767. Duda also walked 55 times, hit 15 home runs, and drove in 33 runs. It would be hard to assemble more confusing statistics than these. Add that he hit a remarkably low .145 with runners in scoring position, and .125 with runners in scoring position and two outs. So how does one make sense of all of this? In summary, Duda has a penchant for getting on base, and is willing to take a walk. These are positive characteristics. However, Duda is in the lineup to hit for power and drive in runs, and he simply does not do that consistently. His average with runners in scoring position is very telling, as is his low RBI total (33) to go with his respectable home run total (15). While his OPS is reasonable at .767, he has not developed into the middle-of-the-order threat that the Mets have expected him to be. This could be the result of his approach at the plate, which seems to be to take a lot of pitches, until the pitcher makes a mistake in the strike zone. The walks Duda draws could support that this approach works well. However, once pitchers become aware of a hitter’s desire to work the count, they often start by throwing strikes early, putting the hitter in a defensive count. This may help explain Duda’s low average, and disproportionately high number of strikeouts (102).

How He Did In The Field:

Defense is not Duda’s strong suit. He began the season in left field, and struggled. In fairness to Lucas, he is a natural first baseman. Once the charade of attempting to make him an outfielder ended in mid-June (with the acquisition of Eric Young Junior), Duda played first base upon his return from his injury and temporary demotion. The numbers support his defensive challenges. As a left fielder in 2013, Duda had an ultimate zone rating of -12. His ultimate zone rating at first base was 0.6, showing clearly that he is much more proficient as an infielder.

Projected Role In 2014:

Duda is part of a crowded picture at first base. The Mets have Ike Davis and Josh Satin as other candidates for the position. The real competition is probably between Davis and Duda to be the left-handed half of a potential platoon with Satin. Duda would have one advantage in that competition. He is projected to earn significantly less than Davis in 2014. Then there’s the possibility that the Mets move in a completely different direction at first base, and bring in external talent for the position. This would make Duda available on the trade market. If this were to materialize, Duda would likely draw interest from American League teams, who could use Duda as a DH and part-time first baseman.

Contract Status and Trade Rumors:

Duda is arbitration eligible after the 2015 season, and can become a free agent after the 2018 season. His name has yet to surface in specific trade rumors. However, as mentioned above, the Mets will have to sort out the first base situation, and Duda may be sent elsewhere. His future will be tied to the other moves the Mets make, both at first base and at other positions.

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