by Ray Kuhn
Lucas Duda has two things that fantasy owners are looking for; power potential and the opportunity for playing time. The Mets do not exactly have many other options in their outfield (at least for now, though there is still time), so Duda should be penciled in as a starter. Just because the Mets seem content to rely on Duda as a power threat in the middle of their order, should you?
Last season was supposed to be a coming out party for Duda but he saw his average drop from .292 in 2011 to .239. His season was interrupted by a trip to the minor leagues in an attempt for him to work out his slump, but the second half of his season was actually worst than his first (.249 in the first half compared to .214 in the second half).
Even in 2011 he was not making contact at a high level (79%), but last season his contact rate plummeted to 71%. At this point between the poor contact and 26.1% strikeout percentage last season (you would hope would improve since historically it has never been that high, with an 18.2% mark at Triple-A the past two seasons), it does not seem like Duda’s average will be elite. At that same time, if he is hitting for power that shouldn’t be an issue (just see Adam Dunn).
Duda’s power potential is legitimate. He has a definitive skill, but the main thing is that Duda needs to make contact in order to put that power to good use. Duda had a fly ball rate last season (42.3%) and he turned 12.5% of those fly balls into home runs. This is something that is repeatable (he hit 10 HR in ’11 in 301 AB thanks to a 43.4% flyball rate and 9.3% HR/FB) and, as he becomes more comfortable in the major leagues, he should be able to harness his power more effectively (he has hit 30 HR over 489 AB at Triple-A in the International League).
While Duda will likely be towards the middle of the order, RBI and R still might be hard to come by. This is the Mets we’re talking about.
There are a few things holding Duda back, like his strikeout rate (though he posted a 16.4% mark in ’11) and his offseason wrist injury. Assuming he’s healthy, and all reports are that he is, Duda will enter 2013 at the magic age of 27 giving us even more hope that he can put things together. His line drive rate of 22.5% in 2012 also gives reason for optimism.
Even in the worst case scenario if you split the difference between 2011 (.292) and 2012 (.239) you are looking at an average of about .265. While you can’t count on it, the underlying metrics tells us it is very possible.
A .260 batting average, 22 HR and 65 RBI might be a conservative projection for Duda (with some upside across the board). He is worth a look as a low end outfield option this season with the potential for more, just don’t go into the season counting on him.
What are your thoughts of Duda? Do you think he can be a productive power hitter? Why or why not?
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