by Andrew Gould
Lucas Duda has transformed from a preseason sleeper to a legit 30/100 threat to a minor leaguer.
Anybody who zoned out for a couple weeks must have been shocked to see that the New York Mets demoted their slugger on Tuesday. Duda entered the All-Star break with 12 homers and 44 RBI and this is the same team that stuck with Ike Davis even though he was hitting below .200 until the end of June.
At first, the idea of sending Duda down to Triple-A seemed ridiculous considering Duda is one of the Mets’ lone power threats. Duda was the team’s second best hitter for most of the year with Davis slumping, so even benching him against lefties seemed extreme.
In the Mets defense, Duda produced unbearable results during July. The burly power hitter batted .140 with a .233 slugging percentage and .493 OPS for the month before the Mets decided that enough was enough. While fielding bears no significance to fantasy owners, the 254-pounder possesses no range and a weak arm, making him a major liability in the outfield.
A once promising season now looks bleak, and a player thought to contain massive upside now looks like damaged goods. How has Duda declined so quickly, and will he bounce back this season?
Duda now sports an uninspiring .241/.335/.391 line, with the lack of power disappointing Mets fans and fantasy owners the most. His 12 home runs are solid, but he has only collected 10 other extra base hits. This production is a far cry from the .292/.370/482 marks he earned over 100 games last year, with most of the damage inflicted during the second half.
Unlike last season though, Duda is striking out a boatload of times. His strikeout rate has skyrocketed from 16.4 percent last season to 26.5 percent this year. Surprisingly enough, he is not whiffing significantly more than last year, as his swinging strikes percentage has only increased by 0.7. He is, however, watching much more pitches across the plate. His z-swing percentage has soared from 63.3 to 55.9, so maybe Duda’s patience has actually hurt him.
Duda, who rarely played against left-handed pitchers last season, has proven incapable of hitting them this time around. In 112 at-bats, the lefty is hitting .225 with 42 punch outs against southpaws.
It’s still a bit of a head-scratcher for the Mets to demote Duda considering their weak outfield. Their only other power source in the outfield, Scott Hairston, is only there to hit lefties. If Duda hits in Triple-A, he should quickly find his way back to Citi Field.
Fantasy owners also face a tough personnel choice with Duda. In a shallow 10 or 12 team mixed league, don’t feel too bad about cutting him loose. At this point, you can get similar production from a guy like Ryan Ludwick, who is owned in only four percent of Yahoo! leagues.
In deeper leagues, don’t give up on a guy with 25-30 home run potential so quickly. Duda hitting .240 average is probably more realistic than batting .290, but he should probably fall somewhere in between in the .250s or low .260s.
Still, Duda is a big man who can hit baseballs awfully far. With that kind of promise, it’s too early to give up on a 26-year-old after one so-so season marred by one awful month.