Now in his fourth full-season spent on a major league roster, and the first in which he’s been afforded adequate playing time, Lucas Duda is blossoming right before our very eyes.
Is he a star? No. But is he developing into a good first baseman? Yes.
After getting off to a slow start, he hit his stride in June, raising his season hitting line to .252/.344/.473 to go along with 13 home runs, just two shy of his career high.
Duda’s wOBA stands at .358, why ties him with Joey Votto and Michael Morse for 12th among MLB first basemen, and puts him firmly ahead of Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Davis, Joe Mauer, and Ryan Howard.
That is better production than most people would’ve expected out of the Mets 7th-round pick in 2007, even his most ardent supporters. But the Mets could be getting more out of first base if they leveraged the talent they have better.
Against right-handed pitching, Duda has mashed this year, hitting .271/.361/.524 with 12 homeruns and a .387 wOBA, but against lefties, he is hitting an anemic .156/.269/.222 with only one homer and a putrid .237 wOBA.
Earlier in the year, the Mets attempted to have Josh Satin fill the right-handed half of the platoon with Duda and Ike Davis, but he floundered in that role, and the Mets are yet to fill that hole. Which is where Eric Campbell comes into play.
Campbell played very well in his brief stint filling in for David Wright during his injury, and has earned himself a spot on the roster, and more playing time. A way to reward Campbell for his good play would be to have him serve as the platoon-mate for Duda.
On the season, Campbell is hitting .359/.395/.513 against southpaws, albeit in a very small sample size in which he has an unsustainable .464 BABIP.
But even if we can expect Campbell to regress to his ZiPS projection of .290/.355/.405 by season’s end, that production, coupled with what Duda has been achieving, could give the Mets a nifty combination at first base for around $2 million. Using Lewie Pollis’ math, the production that this platoon could feasibly result in would cost over $19 million on the free agent market.
If Campbell flops, Wilmer Flores could step in and be a quick option to fill out the platoon. especially since he has been raking in Las Vegas since his demotion. If the team doesn’t want to go that route, Satin could get a second chance to try and prove himself, after all, he was good at the plate 2013.
Duda is not a perfect player, nobody has ever suggested otherwise. But he has developed into a credible major leaguer who can get by on his own. However, if he were to move into a strict platoon role, he could thrive much in the same way that Brandon Moss, Chris Carter, Derek Norris and John Jaso have thrived in platoon situations in Oakland over the past three seasons.
So while we should all be happy for Duda’s progress, it could be even better for the team to go to a platoon and leverage his – and his platoon mate’s – abilities to get production that exceeds the sum of the individual parts.
Joe Vasile is the voice of the Fayetteville SwampDogs.