What To Do with Duda

At the moment, Lucas Duda is nursing a hamstring strain, and may or may not be headed to the DL. Can a hamstring injury prevent a player from recognizing sliders in the dirt?

Joking, of course. But after nearly 800 plate appearances, we have only a vague idea of Duda’s true potential. Based on the information we have on him, what should the Mets do with Lucas Duda?

We have seen Duda hit mammoth homeruns. We’ve seen him show patience and discipline at the plate, and hit the other way. We’ve seen him hit over .300 for an extended period, and we’ve seen him fill the middle of the order as a legitimate run producer / RBI man.

However, we’ve also seen the bad side — the Duda who is overmatched by marginal lefthanded pitchers who can spin a slider into the dirt. The Duda who is unsure of himself and tentative at the plate, letting good pitches go by. The Duda who makes every fly ball an adventure.

At times, Lucas Duda has looked like he might be the next Adam Dunn, a homerun / walk / on-base machine — except, minus the strikeouts. More recently, he’s looked like he might be the next Gary Rajsich — a powerfully built young man who looks like he’s going to crush the ball, but for some mysterious reason, just can’t seem to make enough contact to fulfill the promise.

Actually, Rajsich is too far a stretch; Duda has already far exceeded the best Rajsich ever accomplished at the big-league level. Maybe Pat Putnam is a better comp. For those too young to remember, Putnam came up with the Texas Rangers as a 25-year-old in 1979 and hit 18 HR with a .277 AVG in 139 games. He looked like he had the potential to be a serious slugger who could hit tape-measure homers — maybe even an All-Star. Do you remember Putnam? If you’re too young, have you ever heard of him before? Likely not, and there’s a reason — he spent 8 years as a platoon / backup first baseman, totaling 63 career homers and a .255 AVG. Is that Duda’s fate? Who knows?

At this point in time, I don’t think the Mets have much choice but to play Lucas Duda every day to find out his ceiling. Looking at his current stat line, it’s doubtful the Mets would get much for him in a trade; he’d have to be part of a larger package to get significant return. Does it make sense to give up on him now, to obtain, say, a late-inning reliever that may or may not help the Mets make a run at the Wild Card? I’m not sure it’s worth it. Duda will turn 27 next February, and that’s generally the age that players begin their peak. Consider that, plus the fact that some power hitters take a little longer to develop; Carlos Pena, Nelson Cruz, and Jose Bautista are three that immediately come to mind. I’m not suggesting that Duda is going to become a 40-HR guy, just that it’s not unusual for sluggers to bloom in their late 20s. That said, I think it’s possible for Duda to become a bonafide run producer.

However, I don’t know if it’s possible for Duda to develop into an outfielder who plays acceptable defense. I haven’t seen enough of him at 1B to pass judgment there, so in my mind, his future is as a DH. That’s a problem considering he plays for a National League club. Duda has to be an absolute beast — on the level of a Dunn, Cruz, or Bautista — in order to justify an outfield role.

So what to do with Duda? First off, get him out of RF and move him to left, where hopefully his defensive misadventures will be slightly less damaging. Play him every day, against lefties and righties, and see what happens. There aren’t any MLB-ready, power-hitting outfielders in the system currently, so it’s not as if Duda is blocking anyone. Send him out there, expose him to everything, and hope he figures out how to release the beast within. By the end of this season, the Mets should have a better idea of where Duda is going with his career and act accordingly. Maybe his bat comes around and they have a trading chip to offer to AL clubs. Maybe his defense improves and he’s the 2013 left fielder. Or maybe he continues to regress, in which case, the Mets know to move on (Cory Vaughn? Wilmer Flores?).

Now, if you are of the belief that this 2012 Mets team can go to the postseason, then the best course of action is to put Duda into a platoon situation with either Jason Bay or Scott Hairston, limit his time in the field, and hope he gets hot enough to overwhelm his defensive miscues. And/or, hope he gets really hot, really quick, and then flip him to another club for bullpen help. Though, my guess is that if he’s that hot, you won’t want to see him exit.

Quite a conundrum, no?

What do you think? What should the Mets do with Lucas Duda? What CAN they do? Post your opinion, and detail your argument.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Paul July 16, 2012 at 11:33 am
    As long as the Mets are in the race, I’d platoon Duda with Scott Hairston in right and try to lift him for a defensive replacement if they had a lead late in the game.

    If the Mets fall out of the race, I’d start playing Duda every day again and hope that he hits enough to interest an American League team during the winter.

  2. meticated July 16, 2012 at 11:54 am
    my thought is send him to India for hatha yoga classes with swami muktachitanandaneesh or feldenkrais with j lo…or alexander technique with Dr Oz…or chi kung fu with chow yun fat..anything that teaches where his navel is …
  3. MikeT July 16, 2012 at 12:30 pm
    Mets will not move Duda to LF. RF is hard enough for him, LF will not make much of a difference. Might as well keep things as consistent as possible. Platooning him with Scott Hairston is wise for the time being. His defense is so bad that his production no longer can support his defense. I think he is -10 runs by UZR! If this offense was as expected he would still be costing the Mets runs, but it would not be as bad, and might even be tolerable. Get him time off until his bat heats up again or the season will slip away soon.

    As for who would ultimately replace him if they moved him, Vaughn is a middling prospect right now in A+ (St Lucie) and streaky as they come. Overall his numbers do not indicate he will handle MLB pitching. Flores is showing that he can hit, and will hit, anywhere, but his glove will not play in the OF. He simply does not have the speed to cover the outfield. He will end up at a corner. His power will need to continue to develop for him to play at first, but right now he is making a push for showing up next summer in Queens. It’s exciting.

    There really is no one right now to play RF, unless you believe in Kirk or den Dekker. I do not, unless you mean as part time players, then I do. That is more than okay with me, but Mets fans want saviors.

    The best solution is platoons. Bay in left, Torres/Kirk in CF, Duda/Hairston in right. I hear BJ Upton is a free agent this winter…

    • HobieLandrith July 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm
      Cory Vaughn has more homers than anyone in the Mets organization. I realize that’s not saying much, considering the pathetic lack of power the Mets org has. Of course he’s streaky, just about every power hitter is.

      What about his numbers say he won’t hit ML pitching? What about Duda’s minor league numbers said he WOULD?

      • 7train July 16, 2012 at 9:49 pm
        Vaughn is leading the FL St League in HR’s and he’s a pretty good defensive RFer. If he were ready he would be a great compliment to Lucas as he has big platoon splits as well and he could come in as a pinch hitter and/or defensive replacement. He really should be moved up to see what he can do in AA as he fits a glaring need in the Organization.

        I can see an OF at some point in 2014 of Vaughn/Kirk in RF, den Dekker in CF, Valdespin/Lagares in LF with Taijeron and Cecciliani in reserve.

        That’s four potential CFers on the ML roster and one in AAA. Add in Tovar at SS and Tejada at 2B and that is some defense to put behind all the young pitching coming up.

        Lucas’ value should be built up as much as possible until we can get to that but if you want to go after it this year he’ll at the very least need to be platooned, like everyone not named Tejada or Wright.

        • MikeT July 17, 2012 at 10:57 am
          Wow, what about Tapia in the rotation and Gorski too, he should be ready by then!

          Seriously, you cannot project minor leaguers below AA to be on your big league roster. Lets trade Wright now because Fores will be ready by 2014! You just don’t do that. You let guys force their way into the lineup/rotation and you find a place to put them until they do. Vaughn is hitting .242/.347/.462 with a K% of 22!!!! In A+, that is awful. den Dekker has a K% of 29 in AAA. He’s never had a K% of less than 21.5 in any level. That is not good enough. These things matter, just look at Kirk? Don’t we all languish at his at bats because he strikes out so much? What makes you think any of these things would not apply to Vaughn or den Dekker?

          Duda developed power as he went up each level. He was improving as he went. He hovered in the mid teens for K%. And he strikes out in the mid 20s in the bigs. Duda is under-performing on the year, but is for sure better than the other options and still young enough that he should be given more time.

    • Walnutz15 July 17, 2012 at 11:09 am
      Still boggles my mind that Duda hasn’t at least been checked out in LF, especially with Bay out. Now that he’s coming back – there’s no window for that, and I think it’s irresponsible on the Mets part.

      He’s not going to be playing 1B with Ike Davis here, and for all intents and purposes – nothing about his defensive “prowess” suggest to me that he’d be remotely good at 1Bag…..along the lines of a Murphy, and for all the defensive metrics in the world; Murph was never as good a 1B as UZR and other crap like that suggested.

      Guys like Alfonso Soriano, Matt Holliday, Carlos Lee, and even Adam Dunn have handled LF. Right Field can be a complicated position for guys with no real outstanding “strength” out there……let alone Citi Field’s RF, even post-Mo’s Zone.

      It’s not even like he’s got a rocket-launcher for an arm.

      Duda played a ton of LF in the minors, and even at USC – when not at 1B…so this is indefensible to me, meaning with Bay on the shelf.

      Just getting that out there.

      =========================

      From a June post I made:

      I’d like to see Duda play LF….where the reads are truer and throws/gaps are shorter.

      RF typically becomes a bigger problem when you’re making a mistake in the outfield…..look no further than some of the errors Duda’s made (or hasn’t been charged with by the official scorer – multiple times now) this season.

      At the same time, we’ve seen bigger, sometimes clumsier LF’ers out there many times through the years – i.e. Matt Holliday, Manny Ramirez – at least keeping up with the joneses and putting up a good front defensively.

      (Sure, they still come with “adventure in the outfield” tags – but that’s beside the point.)

      Ball gets by you in LF, it’s a completely different ballgame than it is in RF – most times.

      I think the shorter dimensions in the Citi Field LCF alley help him, in addition to truer reads off the bat on balls pulled to LF and the corner. (You’re also not dealing with as many slices on balls that way, most times.)

      In addition, he’s got a good enough arm – where it translates to being a “plus” (IMO) from LF.

      Shorter throws, pretty good arm….at least on-par with Bay – who had a decent one, mainly because of the accuracy…..will keep runners from taking the extra base in lieu of playing fly outs into 3-base errors from RF.

      He also “looks better”, just on the basis of his competition as a strict “LF” around the league.

      To me, it’s about minimizing the damage – and think the Mets will be hurt more, over time – with him playing RF.

      ===================================

      This isn’t even touching his struggles at the dish, or adventures on the base-paths —— but hey, who knows how much of a mental midget he is, in attempting to play a position he truly sucks at?

      Do the right thing, and let the kid play a familiar position at least.

  4. Joe July 16, 2012 at 12:39 pm
    You suggest sending Duda to LF. That leads to a question of what to do with Bay. Does he have any value in the open market? Obviously, the imho stupid contract will not be paid for, but would a team see him as a possible bench player if the Mets ate most of the contract and got some spare part in return? A marginal player would be more helpful than Bay has been while moving another lead weight, if the fans don’t dislike as much as some of the others.
    • Joe Janish July 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm
      Sorry, I thought it was obvious that the Mets would move Bay to RF. Unlike Duda, Bay is an outfielder, and a ballplayer, which means he can play anywhere in the outfield well enough to not embarrass himself.

      I don’t see the Mets getting anything for Bay unless he starts hitting AND the Mets eat the rest of his contract. Similar to the situation with the second tour of Jeromy Burnitz.

      • Joe July 16, 2012 at 3:37 pm
        Thanks. IF they keep him, sorry, I wasn’t really confused as to what would happen to him. I just was raising an option (however much of a pipe dream) of what could be done.

        You very well might be right though if some team got him for the league minimum, I thought it was at least possible at least one might think it worth it for some middling player.

  5. SiddFinch July 16, 2012 at 1:19 pm
    I think they need to trade both of the future DH’s masquerading as full-time players-Murphy and Duda. The sooner the better, especially with Murph hitting the ball fairly well. I would try to put a package together with both for Greinke, in a trade and sign deal, as Familia and maybe Meijia as the centerpieces. The Brewers need a 1B and Murph could fit the bill there. Losing Fielder sapped a lot of their power, so that’s where Duda could fit in. The Brewers need young arms, and if the Mets acquired Greinke, the loss of Familia and Meijia would be negligible. Or they could offer a lesser package of some of the same pieces for Garza or Dempster. Duda has a nice although streaky bat, runs like a mule and a defensive liability. They don’t want to stuck with him long-term.
  6. DaveSchneck July 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm
    Joe,
    I think the Dude has shown enough good tendencies at the plate to guess he will figure it out. However, RF is not the place. Mets need to decide Ike or Luke. Platoon the Dude with Hairston while they are in the race, play him daily if they drop out.
  7. argonbunnies July 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm
    If sitting him against lefties might help him get in a groove, and help us win some games in the meantime, I’m all for it. Once he heats up, though, I’m all for testing what he can do with an eye toward next year.

    Duda may never be an average RF because of his below-average speed, but the speed of his transfer and release and reactions to batted balls can likely be improved with practice. He’s only been playing RF for a couple years; most players aren’t done improving at that stage. Maybe once he gets going with the bat, he and the staff can concentrate more on his D. I’m not expecting a miracle, but some improvement doesn’t seem unrealistic.

    And if he never gets going with the bat, all this is moot.

  8. Joe Gomes July 16, 2012 at 4:04 pm
    What to do with Duda? easy, either trade him or send him to AAA. If you all look at it logically, is very simple.

    Can Duda play an average RF? = no
    Does Duda have a great arm? = no
    Is Duda hitting for enough power to justify his roster spot? no
    Can he be switched to his natural 1B position? = no
    Is he fast enough to help you in the running game? lol no.

    Simply put, Duda is not what the Mets need because his only tool is that he can hit for power when he hits it.

  9. ovanjye July 17, 2012 at 2:47 am
    Funny how easy it is for the Mets to always they are building for something better, that is the difference between loser like the Mets and Winners like the Yankees they just go for it and reload. The Mets owe it to the fans to make a splash and go for it. I propose a few trades to make the Metzies more competative and show the fans they care.
    Marte,Puello,Holt and Murphy for Liariano thats right he will get right with Santana here.

    Rotation will be Santana, Dickey,Niese,Harvey,Liriano

    Bay and Holt for Soriano and if necessary pay the rest of Bay contract this year.

    Outfield Soriano, Kirk & Torres, Leave Duda alone, he will figure it out, the hitting coach should make it clear to him and kirk stay off the offspead stuff period!!! Or here is the bench for a couple of games, Duda / Harrison.

    Infield Wright, a must sign long term 20 mil for 5yr!! Tejada still don’t care for a light hitting shortstop/ Jhonny at second/ Davis at first.

    Parnell/Thole/Havens for Street and John Baker

    Baker catches, Street to the bullpen and if Franky complains trade him too.

    Done team is balanced and ready to really compete without taking in more than 5 million dollars. WOW

    • MikeT July 17, 2012 at 10:59 am
      Holt is not even in the organization any more. Go read a Yankees blog.
      • Walnutz15 July 17, 2012 at 11:36 am
        He is, actually……still clinging on at Binghamton.
        • MikeT July 17, 2012 at 11:50 am
          I thought he was one of the guys released back in May. Regardless, no one wants a failed SP turned reliever who can barely handle AA. Holt is a non-prospect now.
        • Walnutz15 July 17, 2012 at 12:06 pm
          Nah, he’s still with the BMets.
    • Joe Janish July 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm
      Pretty simple solution … what is Sandy Alderson waiting for?

      In all seriousness, I don’t think the Mets would give up Marte and Puello as well as their starting 2B in a deal for a pitcher who is not really that good, has had two good seasons out of seven in MLB, can’t stay healthy, is at an age where he “is what he is,” and will be a free agent at the end of the year.

      How is being with Johan Santana going to cure his awful mechanics that guarantee consistent trips to the DL?

      The suggestion that the Cubs would trade Alfonso Soriano for Jason Bay is intriguing, and they’d probably jump at the deal, but I don’t know that the Mets would be willing to take on the $40M+ left on Soriano’s deal PLUS pay the rest of Bay’s. And though Soriano would add pop the Mets need, the already sketchy outfield defense becomes disastrous.

      I don’t know about the proposed trade for Street and Baker; my feeling is the Padres could get a better return. In fact they’d be more likely to get three players like that for ONE of them.

  10. Melissa July 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm
    Duda is easy on the eyes. Leave him be and play him everyday :)