Expect Duda To Be Your Opening Day Right Fielder In 2012

A few days ago I wrote about Lucas Duda possibly playng a big role for the Mets in 2012 and beyond. Terry Collins spoke about that future today after the game. In a blog post by Adam Rubin, Collins sounds like Duda will be his everyday right fielder next season, and he really wants to get him more playing time and reps in the outfield.

“Sandy and I talked about getting him back in right field, and today would have been an opportunity because we could have put Nick at first,” Collins said. “You know, (Duda’s) just playing so well, and I just hate to disrupt — especially a young player — and move him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth…The worst-case scenario, at the end of this year we say, ‘Hey, look, we’ve got to get him ready for the outfield,’ I’ll send him to the instructional league for two weeks. Let him go down there and get fly balls every day.”

Duda has no problem with that:

Said Duda: “I’ll play wherever — right field or first base. I feel a little more comfortable at first. I’ve been playing there more often. Right field is a work in progress still, but anywhere that’s going to get me at-bats.”

So there you go – Lucas Duda and Jason Bay will be bookends in the outfield next season. Okay, next question – who plays center field?

Original Post: Lucas Duda Will Play A Big Role For Mets Moving Forward

The Mets surround Lucas Duda (21) after Duda drove in the winning run in the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres in New York.I started writing this post sometime Sunday night, when I learned that Daniel Murphy had torn his MCL and was done for the rest of this season. I thought about how the Mets were going to handle first base moving forward with two months left to play in the season. I figured we would see a little bit of Nick Evans of course, but that the lion’s share of the playing time would probably fall to that lovable, lumbering, ox named Lucas Duda.

Ironically, Duda was supposed to be Plan B for replacing the now departed right fielder Carlos Beltran, but things always have a way of changing quickly when it comes to the New York Mets. There’s always someone being scheduled for an MRI, or getting a cortisone shot, or hitting the disabled list.

The question on most Mets fans minds was how would Duda respond to the pressure of replacing Daniel Murphy who had become one of the key players in that clubhouse, and would Duda be able to provide the Mets with some thump in the lineup now that they had lost one of their most valuable bats?

Last night, Duda answered those questions and addressed any concerns in the bottom of the ninth inning with a majestic swing of his mighty bat in a dramatic 9-8 walk-off victory over the San Diego Padres for the Never Say Die Mets. In case you missed it, you can relive the moment again right here!

Lucas Duda delivered a huge two-run single with one out in the ninth, to score David Wright who slid home with the winning run. It was without a doubt the biggest hit in Duda’s young professional career. Oh and the best part was that this came at the expense of Padres closer and former Met, Heath Bell. Duda finished the game 3-for-5.

Manager Terry Collins was gushing after the game, “You can tell the confidence is building in him when you’re around him. This guy doesn’t have very much to say, as you guys know. He doesn’t say much. He’s starting to talk now.” The guy is a gentle giant and he does all his talking with his bat. 

The Mets drafted Duda with their seventh round pick in the 2007 Draft. He’s never been considered a toolsy outfielder or even a top prospect for that matter, but he’s always swung a solid bat at every level of the minors and his power kept increasing along the way. As a matter of fact, prior to his call-up, Duda was leading the International League with a .414 on-base percentage and in 157 plate appearances he had already racked up 10 home runs and 24 RBIs while batting .303 and posting a 1.011 OPS.

Duda’s coming out party came last season when he put together a tremendous campaign over two levels of the minors and finished with a .304/.398/.569 slash line in 495 plate appearances. In the course of 115 games played in 2010, Duda smacked 40 doubles and 23 home runs while driving in 87 runs. It was very impressive to say the least and a portent of good things to come for him in the future.

His power is legit, his bat is consistent, and he’s getting acclimated very quickly to the major leagues. In his last 24 games he’s batting .344/.425/.623. He’s going to be a very important piece of the Mets puzzle in 2012 and could be a fixture in the middle of the Mets order for years to come.

But, for now, let’s just relish the moment and be thankful he was in the right place and at the right time last night as the Mets continue to rebound from every adversity that fate has thrown their way.

Great game – great moment – great at-bat by Lucas Duda!