LUCAS DUDA, LF
PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: The expectations were in the form of wishful thinking when centerfielder Andres Torres and right fielder Lucas Duda reported to spring training. Unwilling or unable to add quality outfielders in the offseason – take your pick – the Mets opted for the bargain basement route. The Mets sent the underperforming Angel Pagan to the Giants for the non-productive Torres. A change of scenery has worked before and the Mets were hoping it would again. Theoretically, Torres was going to bring speed and a high on-base percentage at the top of the order while patrolling Citi Field’s spacious outfield. The hope for Duda was two-fold: 1) provide power to a line-up void of it, and 2) learn how to play right field.
2012 SEASON REVIEW: Torres’ nightmare season began the first week when he strained his left calf and went on the disabled list. Torres was sluggish upon his return and was hitting .213 by the end of May. Torres hit .230 (11 points below his career average) with a paltry .327 on-base percentage, .664 OPS and just 13 stolen bases. He also struck out 90 times. Yes, the injury set back Torres, but he also played poorly when he was in the line-up. It was a learning process for Duda, first in learning major league pitchers while playing a new position. The Mets became enamored with Duda’s power potential when he hit 10 homers in 100 games in 2011. Things soured for Duda last year to the point where he was sent to the minor leagues to work on his mechanics and approach at the plate, and he wasn’t happy about it. Duda played in only 121 games, with 105 in right field where he committed four errors and showed limited range. Offensively, he hit 15 homers with 57 RBI, both well below what the Mets were hoping for. Perhaps Duda’s most significant offensive stat was his 120-51 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. That’s an awful lot of nothing.
LOOKING AT 2013: Torres made $2.7 million last season and is arbitration eligible. As weak as their outfield is, the Mets won’t tender him. Kirk Nieuwenhuis played well when he replaced Torres last year, and barring an unforeseen addition, will get a chance to win the job in spring training. Meanwhile, Pagan will hit the free-agent market and make big bucks. There was a rumor of the Mets dealing Ike Davis and moving Duda to first. I’m not buying. Duda could move to left now that Jason Bay is gone, which is a better position for him. Wherever Duda plays it won’t cost the Mets much. He made $497,318 last season. With Bay gone, he might get a full shot in left field.
NEXT: The Bench.