When the Mets traded rightfielder Jeff Francoeur to the Texas Rangers for infielder Joaquin Arias earlier this week, it opened up a spot for Lucas Duda to play every day. Wait. Lucas Who-da?
Before this season, Lucas Duda wasn't considered one of the Mets' top prospects. In fact, in this year's Maple Street Press Mets Annual, Duda wasn't even listed as one of the top 25 prospects (for position players). When you look at his performance at AA-Binghamton in 2009, it's easy to see why he was overlooked. Last year, Duda played 110 games at Binghamton and managed a .281 batting average. His 9 HR and 53 RBI was a slight decline from his 2008 numbers at St. Lucie, when he produced 11 HR and 66 RBI. Neither year was spectacular.
However, one thing that few people noticed was his doubles production. It is said that with age, doubles turn into homers, and an increased amount of doubles usually leads to a power surge once a player gains valuable experience.
At Brooklyn in 2007, Duda hit 20 doubles. That number rose to 26 in 2008 at St. Lucie and 29 in 2009 at Binghamton. Then came his 2010 season.
Duda began the 2010 season again at Binghamton, where he started hitting double after double, picking up an amazing 17 doubles (along with 6 HR) in only 45 games. That earned him a promotion to AAA-Buffalo, where the doubles continued, but the homers finally arrived as well. In 70 games at Buffalo, Duda hit 23 more doubles, but also added 17 HR.
Between AA and AAA, Duda hit a combined .304, with 40 doubles, 23 HR and 87 RBI, numbers that are very similar to what David Wright has produced for the Mets in 2010 (.292, 32 doubles, 22 HR, 87 RBI entering today's game against the Cubs).
That earned Duda a promotion to the Mets, where he has played every day since being called up on Wednesday, the day after Jeff Francoeur's spot in the outfield opened up due to his trade to Texas.
What will the future hold for Duda? That remains to be seen. But should he do well, the headlines of the New York tabloids will be splashed with "DUDA HUSTLE" and "DUDA RIGHT THING". If he is seen in public wearing the outfits that the veterans force rookies to wear during their hazing, the headlines might say "DUDA, LOOKS LIKE A LADY" after the Aerosmith song with the similar title.
Speaking of music, his entrance song when he makes his first appearance at Citi Field might end up being "Lucas With The Lid Off" , the 1995 kinda-sorta hit by one-hit wonder Lucas.
One thing is for sure with new Mets outfielder Lucas Duda. He has improved from year to year, going from a non-prospect to a major leaguer virtually overnight. His progress in the minor leagues looks very similar to David Wright's year-to-year progress, especially in the extra-base hit department:
2008: .263 average, 26 doubles, 11 HR, 66 RBI
2009: .281 average, 29 doubles, 9 HR, 53 RBI
2010: .304 average, 40 doubles, 23 HR, 87 RBI
2002: .266 average, 30 doubles, 11 HR, 93 RBI
2003: .270 average, 39 doubles, 15 HR, 75 RBI
2004: .320 average, 52 doubles, 32 HR, 97 RBI (combined between minors and majors)
The homegrown movement has begun for the Mets. With Lucas Duda joining Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Ruben Tejada and Jonathon Niese, the Mets have proven that they had a better farm system than most experts gave them credit for. Before this year, the farm system had only produced Jose Reyes, David Wright and Mike Pelfrey (Angel Pagan came up through the Mets' farm system, but made his major league debut for the Cubs before coming back to the Mets in 2008).
Once the Mets shed themselves of the cancers in the clubhouse (El Perez-idente, Frankie Knuckles) and the bad contracts given to gimpy players (Luis Cast-"E"-llo), their youth movement will shine.
Lucas Duda is just the latest in a string of young players who will do his best to carry this team back to respectability. The future will be bright at Citi Field, so long as "the Duda abides" and takes the rest of the young Mets stars with him.
For Part 1 of "Hello And Goodbye", please click here.