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2015 Buy List: Lucas Duda

Ray continues the 2015 Buy List series with Mets first baseman Lucas Duda, who is having a breakout year in his first full season as a starter.

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Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Today, I continue the 2015 Buy List series, which is a list of players that I would be buying in offseason trades and in 2015 drafts. You can think of this list as an early target list.

Below you will find the current roster for my 2015 Buy List:

Matt Kemp

Devin Mesoraco

Yan Gomes

The next hitter on the Buy List is Mets first baseman Lucas Duda, who has shown he can be a very productive hitter in his first full season as a starter. Duda has always shown he can hit for power and possesses solid plate discipline, as evidenced by his 11.6% career walk rate. But, as the Mets discovered, he is a statue in the outfield, and only offers the team value at first base. It took the Mets a few seasons, but they finally moved him to first base on a full time basis, and removed the logjam at first base earlier in the season by dealing Ike Davis to the Pirates.

Coming into the season, Duda had hit 44 home runs in about 1,400 plate appearances, and his HR/FB% had increased in each season in the big leagues:

2011: 9.3%

2012: 12.5%

2013: 14.3%

2014: 16.2%

In addition, he is hitting more fly balls than ever:

2011: 43.4%

2012: 42. 3%

2013: 48.4%

2014: 48.5%

Obvious to everyone, if a power hitter hits more fly balls, the better chance he has to hitting the ball over the wall. Some power hitters are free swingers, expanding their strike zone in an effort to hit for more power, but that is not the case for Duda, as he swings outside the zone 28.4% this season. While not high, he is swinging at more pitches outside the zone in 2014 compared to 2013.

Wesley Jia from Amazin Avenue, SB Nation's Mets fan site, took a look at why he is having a breakout year in this article back in August , and here is an excerpt:

Lucas Duda has performed better by swinging more often early in the count (first pitch or 1-0), leading to much better results. However, the sample size on his improved performance still isn't that great. Yet we can't discredit Duda's results. We can expect to see pitchers adjust to his more aggressive approach, for example by throwing more balls early in the count, so Duda's performance may continue to change into the future.

It's too early to draw definitive conclusions about Lucas Duda. For now, what we can say is that he's performed better, primarily due to his more aggressive approach early in the count.

Jia took a look at Duda's career stats before May 25th, 2014 and since May 26th of this season, proving that Duda had made a conscious effort to be more aggressive at the plate, especially early in the count.

Through 145 games and 561 plate appearances this season, Duda is hitting .252-.353-.478 with 28 home runs, 71 runs scored and 85 RBI. He's been pretty consistent with the power output, as he has hit 14 home runs in both the first and second half this season.

Looking ahead to 2015, there has been talk that the Mets might, once again, move the fences in at Citi Field, specifically in right-center field. Here is more from Mets beat reporter Marc Carig from a September 9th Newsday article:

Talks have been ongoing for some time, according to a team insider. The changes don't seem to be as large in scope as the ones made after 2011. Not surprisingly, the focus appears to be on adjusting right-centerfield, the deepest part of Citi Field.

The fence in rightcenter is 398 feet away from home plate, down from the original 415 feet, though it still requires tons of power to clear the wall.

"It's something that we had talked about the possibility in the past and we continue to look at it," Alderson told reporters. "We brought the fences in a couple years ago. It's not about tailoring the ballpark to a particular player or a particular composition of team, it's about making Citi Field as fan-friendly and as exciting as we can make it."

Moving in the fences in right-center field could improve Duda's home run totals in 2015, assuming he can repeat his 2014 performance at the plate, and can stay healthy. He could hit 30+ home runs with the change, and in an era where power, and run scoring, are in decline, Duda should get plenty of love on draft day next March.

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