The Mets made the right choice shipping off Ike Davis in favor of Lucas Duda. In his year-28 season, the Duda has exploded to the tune of .255/.349/.499 with 26 home runs, 61 runs and 76 RBIs. Since the All-Star break, only the great Giancarlo Stanton has more home runs (14 to 12), and Duda's .285 ISO ranks fifth behind sluggers Chris Carter (.348), David Ortiz (.330), Stanton (316) and Oswaldo Arcia (.310).
Going back to last year, Duda has launched 41 home runs in 225 games, which is tied for the 30th most in baseball -- and the majority of those players have played in 30, 40 and, in some cases, 50 more games than the Mets first baseman. We know Duda is helping you chase fantasy championships in 2014, but what can he do for you in future years? Is he a 30-home run hitter going forward, or are we looking at his peak?
Some favorable trends we've seen from Duda this season include a decreased strikeout rate, which is something I really like to see from my sluggers. Yes, a home run hitter is going to strike out from time to time, but Duda has shown significant improvement in this area. Last season, Duda's K-rate reached a career high 26.6 percent, which was pretty consistent with his 26.1 percent mark the year before. But this year, Duda's K-rate has dropped to a respectable 21.5 percent (league average is 20.3 percent).
However, Duda has actually seen a jump in his O-Swing% (percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone), from 24.2 percent in 2013 to 28.8 percent in 2014. The biggest difference is he's not missing as many pitches inside the strike zone, with a Z-Contact% of 87.5 percent (up from 80.6 percent in 2013). This lines up nicely with his career norm of 86.2 percent.
Duda figures to remain a better player in leagues that award points for on-base percentage. He's recorded a .350 OBP since the start of 2013, although his walk rate has dropped from 14.3 percent to 11.4 percent. I wouldn't suspect his batting average to climb considerably higher than the current career .250 mark, either, which makes him a nonfactor in that area.
Duda won't be outfield eligible in the majority of leagues next season, which will hurt his value overall, but only by a little. Duda's 26 home runs at first base are fourth most in baseball, behind only Jose Abreu (33), Anthony Rizzo (30) and Edwin Encarnacion (27). Using Duda as your power source at first is an option, but I still view him as a better corner infield player than as an everyday starting option.
That's because Duda has some serious split issues -- and that could become an even bigger problem going forward. This season, Duda has played consistently against both righties and lefties, but only because the team doesn't have a better option. Depending on the Mets offseason moves, Duda's enormous splits could cost him valuable playing time. Therefore, it will be important to draft Duda with a platoon partner in mind, as he's currently hitting .282/.375/.573 with 25 home runs vs. RHP, and just .148/.242/.198 with one home run against southpaws.
I view Duda as a 20 to 25 HR power source going forward, but would still rank him outside the top-12 at the position. There are simply too many bats at first base that are more valuable across the board, and ones that have been doing it longer.
I look at the season Brandon Moss had a year ago and can draw some similarities. Moss is currently the No. 18 first baseman as of today (on the ESPN Player Rater); Duda, meanwhile, is No. 12. Duda will only continue to carry the same value if he approaches 30 home runs every year OR if his batting average climbs significantly. I'm not ready to say either will happen. Don't make the mistake of thinking Duda will be an everyday option for you in 2015.
Stats from FanGraphs.com.