The MLB Network is almost done with their annual “Top Ten Right Now” series, having gone through every position aside from Right Field and Catcher. So far, the New York Mets have not been well represented—the “Shredder” has not been kind to the Metropolitans.
We have had two players make the cut so far—Neil Walker was ranked No. 7 amongst second baseman, and Yoenis Cespedes, who will be the primary center fielder for the Mets in 2016, came in at No. 4 amongst left fielders.
Surprisingly enough, no Mets pitchers were represented in the top ten—again, the “Shredder” no likey the Metsies.
Another position where the Mets could have arguably had a representative was at first base. Lucas Duda continues to be one of the most underrated and overlooked players on the team. I’m not talking about amongst Mets fans, I’m speaking in general terms.
Duda’s stats in 2015 merit him being in the top ten first baseman discussion, at least from an offensive stand point.
Here’s where Duda ranked amongst his peers in some of the more prominent statistics:
Those are some impressive rankings when you consider some of the players that also play the position: Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona Diamondbacks, Joey Votto – Cincinnati Reds, Miguel Cabrera – Detroit Tigers, Anthony Rizzo – Chicago Cubs, Edwin Encarnacion – Toronto Blue Jays, Jose Abreu – Chicago White Sox, Adrian Gonzalez – Los Angeles Dodgers, Freddie Freeman – Atlanta Braves, Chris Davis – Baltimore Orioles, Brandon Belt – San Francisco Giants.
The players listed in the previous paragraph are the top ten first baseman that were spit out by the Shredder (in their exact order of ranking). Granted, the Shredder is supposed to remove all human bias, and my analysis is riddled with it, but I didn’t pull the numbers (from the chart above) out of the sky.
You could definitely make an argument that Duda outperformed a few of those guys listed on the MLB Network’s top ten.
Duda’s splits, and how he fares against left handed pitching can be alarming. But truth be told, he didn’t fare very poorly against lefties in 2015. I think we may see Wilmer Flores give Duda a breather every now and then against left handed pitchers, but I don’t see this becoming a full blown platoon situation. You don’t platoon guys that put up the type of numbers that Duda can.
How the lineup shapes up for the Mets in 2016 could ultimately determine whether or not Duda can cement himself as a top ten first baseman in this league.
If Duda has a right handed hitter behind him that can offer some protection, it should allow him to see more pitches in the strike zone. For the past couple of seasons, Duda provided the only punch in the Mets lineup. If pitchers didn’t want him to hurt them, they just stayed away. This Mets lineup is much deeper now, so hopefully, the pitchers won’t have that luxury anymore.
In 2015, the amount of pitches Duda saw in the strike zone was the lowest of his career (42.9%). However, Duda also swung at a higher percentage of pitches in the strike zone than he has since taking over the job from Ike Davis a couple of seasons ago (62%), and he also made more contact than he has since taking the job (76.9%). So hypothetically speaking, if Duda gets more pitches in the strike zone in 2016 (due to a deeper Mets lineup), and his trend of being more aggressive with pitches in the strike zone continues, and he also continues to improve on his contact percentage, he could be primed for the best season of his career.
If it were only that easy. Unfortunately, there is no crystal ball, and we can only hope that things play out the way we think they will.
Regardless, Duda will be a player to watch early this season and could potentially put up some monster numbers in this lineup. He won’t have the weight of trying to carry this lineup on his shoulders anymore, and won’t be pressing to keep his team in the game with one swing. That should allow Duda to relax a little more this year, and it will hopefully translate into a career year for the lefty slugger.