Spring Training is a time for a lot of different things. Players start to get in shape, there are position battles galore, and all need to prove their worth and prospects have a chance to show managers what they can offer a team.
The Mets’ spring training season has been no different. Players continue to hustle, second base remains an all-out war and prospects like outfielder Lucas Duda are impressing management and have forced them to re-think their strategy heading into Opening Day.
Duda, a seventh round pick by the Mets in 2007, has crushed the ball this spring and has Mets’ coaches pondering his future in orange and blue.
Duda had his cup of coffee last season coming up and playing pretty regularly for the Mets down the stretch. He started his big league campaign quite poorly, but eventually adjusted and began to connect with the ball towards the end of the season. Duda, who filled in for Jeff Francouer after he was traded to the Rangers, finished the year with a .202 average with 4 home runs and 13 RBIs in 84 at bats.
Heading into spring training it was thought that the six-foot-four, 225 pound outfielder would start the year in AAA Buffalo and continue to slug minor league pitching.
However, this spring Duda has turned some heads with his impressive play and is being considered as an option to start in right field should Carlos Beltran start the year on the disabled list.
New Mets Manager Terry Collins admitted recently that Duda has been someone he has considered saying that, should Beltran be unable to start the season in Flushing, the team would have to “look at getting that big bat in the lineup somehow.”
After a 1-for-34 start to his Mets career, Duda hit .320 with 4 home runs and a .993 on-base-plus-slugging percentage over his final 50 at-bats last season. The slugger has continued to impress putting up similar numbers this spring, hitting .297 with four doubles and two home runs.
Duda has monster power potential. Between AAA and AA last season Duda swatted 23 home runs and 87 RBIs while hitting 40 doubles and having a strong .304 batting average all while becoming a fan-favorite in Buffalo. Also interesting to note is the severe drop in the number of times Duda has struck out. In 2008, Duda struck out 129 times for Single A St. Lucie, he struck out 91 times in 2009 and last year he brought the number down to 84.
Should Duda be able to harness his potential and learn how to hit major league pitching, he could have the ability to blossom into a middle of the order threat for the Mets.
Defense is the only real concern with Duda right now. Over the course of his career, Duda has played first base and left field primarily but will be expected to shift over to right field should the Mets bring him north come April. Duda has only played two games in his minor league career in right field and has admitted that it is quite different.
Personally, I think Duda is an intriguing option for the Mets to consider. Collins seems to be a huge proponent of the outfielder and the Mets decision to demote once-super prospect Fernando Martinez to minor league camp is another good sign for Duda. Duda has power that the Mets could certainly use should Beltran not be able to perform to the best of his abilities. His swing is powerful and fluid. In a perfect world, Duda would blossom into an Adam Dunn-type of hitter that the Mets could use. It’s not every day that you find someone with enough raw power to rocket the ball out of Citi Field.