by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
On the surface it may seem like an odd fit, with the rebuilding Kansas City Royals adding Lucas Duda via free agency. However at 1-year and $3.5 million the contract could easily play out one of two ways:
- Duda plays well and becomes trade bait, allowing Kansas City to trade him at the deadline for a prospect
- Duda struggles and either loses his role and becomes a bench option or is simply released, as the price tag doesn’t prohibit either decision
Regardless of how it plays out, there’s little question that the Royals’ modest investment could ultimately produce valuable results.
Though not a sexy name, Duda has proven capable of hitting the ball out of any ballpark. He’s hit 27+ HR in three of the past four seasons, with the lone exception being 2016 when injury limited him to 47 games (172 PA). The problem has always been his ability to compliment it with a strong average, as a career .242 hitter.
Interestingly Duda’s poor average is not due to poor plate discipline. The owners of a career 9.7% SwStr% and 26.9% O-Swing%, he’s been in that realm in each of the past four seasons:
In OBP formats there’s hardly an issue, as he owns a career 11.5% walk rate and .340 OBP. Despite the discipline you can argue that perhaps he’s too passive, as he still owns a 24.1% career strikeout rate (27.5% in ’17). That’s one reason for the poor average, as is his elevated fly ball rate:
- 2014 – 49.0%
- 2015 – 50.6%
- 2016 – 39.5%
- 2017 – 48.6%
For a player with little speed, it’s nearly impossible for him to carry an elevated BABIP and in turn it costs him the opportunity for a solid average. That doesn’t mean that he can’t be a .240-.250 hitter with power, but know exactly what you are buying.
The offshoot is the playing time that Duda takes away from a younger player. It originally looked like youngsters Hunter Dozier and/or Ryan O’Hearn could open the year as the starter, though would either of them really excite you? You could argue that Dozier is similar to Duda, just with a little less power, and with uncertainty in the outfield it’s easy to envision both getting fit into the lineup (Jorge Bonifacio, who we currently have ticketed for the DH spot, could play in the outfield opening up that spot).
It will be interesting to see how things play out, but in OBP formats look towards Duda as a cheap source of power (especially early on).
Source – Fangraphs
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|Starting Pitchers||1-20: 02/20/18|