2011 Postmortem: Right Field

2011 Postmortem: A position-by-position look back at the season with some preliminary thoughts on 2012.

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Mets fans could not have realistically asked for a better 2011 season from Carlos Beltran. Our hero tore the cover off the ball for four months, hit three home runs in a game against the Rockies in May and was flipped to the Giants at the trade deadline for pitcher Zack Wheeler, now one of the organization's top prospects. The Mets have never seen a better center fielder.

Beltran is probably still underappreciated by the Mets' fanbase but his legacy received a booster shot with his strong 2011. To all those still hating, there is this:

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Lucas Duda was on the Opening Day roster but shuttled between Flushing and Triple-A Buffalo in April and May. He dominated in the minors during this stretch, to the tune of a .302/.414/.597 triple slash line. With nothing left to prove at the lower levels, he was recalled to the Mets in early June for good. From that point onward, he was one of the team's top hitters, bested only by Jose Reyes and Beltran in wOBA for batters with 300+ plate appearances. Duda's offensive peripherals (walk rate, strikeout rate, isolated power) were all respectable, so his success wasn't due to the True SABR's dreaded BABIP-inflated performance.

A reason I like Duda is that he dominated the upper levels of the minor leagues prior to getting a real shot in the big leagues. In 393 career Triple-A plate appearances, he posted a 1.003 OPS. In 556 Double-A plate appearances, he posted a .839 OPS, with a .914 OPS in his most recent Double-A season, 2010. Duda is not a high-potential, low performance guy, like a Lastings Milledge or Fernando Martinez. He proved his mettle against high caliber opposition, essentially forcing his way to the big club. This appeals to me as someone who doesn't have, and doesn't pretend to have, much expertise in scouting. I can't look at Duda's swing and say that he'll be a productive major leaguer for years to come. I can look at his prodigious power and above average walk rate in the minors as a relative young'n and say that there's a good chance he'll enjoy success in MLB. Obviously there have been many terrific high-potential, low-performance prospects (Reyes comes to mind) but I'll leave identification of those types to the billions of anonymous scouts out there.

Speaking of Fernando Martinez, the 23 Year-Old Hitting Machine made a cameo in May. He logged 23 plate appearances, striking out 7 times while hitting 1 home run. Unfortunately for Martinez, Pat Misch was credited:

Fernandomisch_medium

At this point, Martinez is an afterthought. He famously can't stay healthy and still can't draw a walk. Plus he's blocked by Duda and crappy-but-still-better-than-Fartinez Jason Bay in the corner positions. His only hope next season is a crazy breakout start in Triple-A, coupled with the continued suckage of Bay. Rest in peace, Omar Minaya's dream outfield of Carlos Beltran, Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez.

Concerns about Duda's defense are valid. He failed both the eye test and the advanced metrics test in 2011. Still, his bat alone makes him the Opening Day right field starter next season. A projection close to .270/.350/.475 seems reasonable. Hopefully the headaches he experienced after colliding with the outfield wall in St. Louis towards the end of the season won't be an issue.

Desired 2012 starting right fielder: Lucas Duda

Projected 2012 starting right fielder: Lucas Duda

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