Lucas Duda provides us ample opportunity to write a catchy headline with that fantastic last name and I simply could not resist. Anyway, he is set to open the 2012 season as the Mets opening day right fielder, qualifying in both the outfield and at first base. After posting a strong .368 wOBA over 347 plate appearances during his rookie season, will we be singing Oh Duda Day next year?
Duda will be 26 next year so he should not be confused for some young top prospect. However, that just means that he is closer to his prime right now. In 2010 at Triple-A, he was fantastic, posting a .424 wOBA, making decent contact, walking at an above average clip, and displaying massive power with a .295 ISO. He was even better during his short stint at the level in 2011, proving that he was ready to become a full-timer with the big league club.
After a slow start with the Mets, hitting just two homers over his first 136 at-bats this year, he then hit eight over his last 165 at-bats. For a power hitter, he made contact at a pretty good rate, took his walks and posted an ISO just below .200. And his .292 average was not even propped up by an inflated BABIP; his .326 mark was in line with his minor league history and supported by a 22.5% line drive rate.
With minimal speed, his fantasy prospects hinge on his power and RBI total, along with potentially contributing in batting average. Over 389 career at-bats, his HR/FB ratio actually looks relatively low at just 10.2%, which is right around the league average. There is some good news though, aside from the Mets moving their fences in. According to Hit Tracker Online, Duda’s 10 home runs this year went for an average standard distance of 412.2 feet. To put this in context, the average MLB distance was just 393.7 feet in 2011 and young masher Mike Stanton was just above Duda’s average at 414.9 feet. So now we know that when Duda gets a hold of one, it goes far.
That’s not the only bit of good news. The other is that he is a fly ball hitter, knocking nearly 44% of his balls in play in the air. Any increase in HR/FB ratio will have a greater effect on his home run total than if he was hitting fewer fly balls, obviously. So these two factors, combined with the good contact he makes and the fences being brought in at Citi Field, mean that he has a real shot at launching 25-30 bombs next year.
An increased HR/FB ratio will also help his batting average since some of these balls had previously been caught. That should help him maintain positive value in the batting average category and make him a pretty good three category contributor. With reports telling us that his headaches have disappeared after colliding with the wall in late September, Duda has a good chance to earn a profit for his fantasy owners next season.