I’m not proud of it, but when I first heard of the Mets plans to play Lucas in RF last season, I might have uttered something like, “That lumbering oaf can’t play the outfield!”
My apologies to lumberjacks everywhere. And you, too, Lucas. I was unkind if not inaccurate.
I guess there are three possibilities for Lucas: 1) He starts the season in an outfield corner, RF most likely; 2) He starts at 1B, because Ike Davis has been traded; 3) He gets traded, somehow.
The p-word gets used a lot. Potential. So far, he’s a coulda, woulda, shoulda player. With power. And therefore a hard guy to give up on. In some respects, it’s the Murphy question all over again: Can he hit enough to offset the painfully inadequate defense? Is he, Mike, the second coming of your old favorite, Butch Huskey?
Wow, Butch Huskey.
Time does fly, as when Jimmy and I first met I was embroiled in various Met forum debates for having the gall to suggest he reminded me of Randy Milligan, and a lot of optimists were appalled that I didn’t see the next Hank Aaron. Now you throw Lucas into that mix. I guess the answer is yes, it’s a good comparison. Like Huskey, Duda has some power and can hit a little but hurts you in the field. And like most non-All Star lefties he struggles against lefties, and his numbers were hurt last year as the team construction had him playing way too much against lefties. He turns 27 already in February, if he is going to be blossom it needs to be now. I doubt he has much trade value, if he does I would move him.
Unless Sandy is truly intent on flushing the system — and there is an argument for that — it looks like we’ve got Lucas for another year. I have not completely given up hope. There’s something about him that whispers, “Late bloomer.” Historically, Duda makes a jump, looks over-matched, adjusts, does better. I go back to the numbers. His 2010 minor league stats are terrific (although, admittedly, age 25); his 2011 stats with the Mets, particularly the second half, were so promising that I actually wondered, “Could we have gotten lucky — for once — with this kid?”
- 2010 Minor League (AA, AAA): .304/.398/.569 for an OPS of .967
- 2011 Post All-Star Break:
- .322/.411/.546 for an OPS of .957.
He struggled mightily in 2012. But he’s a player who has struggled before — that epic call-up in 2010, when from September 1-15, he got one stinking hit in his first 33 ABs.
- 2010 Mets Debut (9/1-15):
- .030/.135/.061 for an OPS of .186
His huge negatives — can’t run, or throw, or read a fly ball — would be mitigated somewhat by a move to first base. Not advocating that, just noting that his poor outfield play considerably decreases his overall value. Maybe he’d be more relaxed at first base, too. Or maybe the increased pressure of replacing arbitration-eligible Ike Davis (what a gamble that would be!) would cook him completely. Searching for Duda’s upside, I feel like I’m grasping for straws.
There has been a lot of talk about his make-up, not that he is a bad guy, but that he is sensitive and gets down on himself. Increased pressure on him would seem to be a very big gamble. But I think he paid a price in 2012 (especially in the first half with Ike lost in the ozone) where Collins kept using him against left handed pitchers because somebody who could hit the ball with authority needed to be in there. In 2011, 21% of Duda’s plate appearances came against lefthanded pitchers. In 2012 that percentage increased to 32%. I think that had a lot to do with the perceived stepback in 2012, Duda was asked to do something he is not equipped to do. Twenty one of his lifetime twenty five home runs have come against right handed pitchers. I am not convinced he can hit lefties for power and when Lucas isn’t driving the ball I can’t see playing him. Even at first it won’t be for the glove.
In the end I see Duda very much like Huskey and Milligan before him. A flawed platoon player with some pop who has a major league career during his younger pre-Free Agent years and an endangered species after that.