Lucas Duda may not offer much on the bases or in the field, but one thing a lot of people feel confident in is his bat. Something clicked, power-wise, in the upper minors in 2010 and that in conjunction with his already-great strikezone control made him a very intriguing hitter. He struggled in his Major League debut in 2010 but had a fantastic 2011, posting an impressive 136 wRC+ in 347 PA, showing a sweet blend of patience, power, and contact ability. If you add in Duda's 2010 numbers, his career wRC+ drops to 124, but that's still quite good, and his walk, strikeout, and isolated power numbers still grade out better than league average. It's almost common sense that a balanced combination of power, contact, and patience will equate to a nice hitter, but just how good? Using Fangraphs' awesome leaderboard features, we'll compare Duda's apparent skillset to batter seasons since 2000 after the jump.
First and foremost is criteria. You can pick with what you like, but I decided to roll with this:
K%: 18 to 20%
BB%: 8 to 12%
ISO: .180 to .220
I felt like this should give us a pretty good range of outcomes for Duda, with a floor of a hitter with a 8% walk rate, 20% strikeout rate, and .180 ISO. On the flipside, the ceiling would 12%, 18%, and .220 in those categories, respectively. Duda, to date (439 PA), is at the following: 8.9 BB%, 18.0 K%, .195 ISO, which is sort of something in between the two. So enough jibber jabber about the criteria and on to the seasons the Fangraphs' Leaderboards spit out. They are sorted by wRC+:
Not too surprisingly, the range of outcomes looks pretty nice. At the peak, we see 2011 Alex Gordon, 2011 Hunter Pence, and 2010 Evan Longoria, all of whom posted wRC+ marks of 140 or greater. At the floor we see players like 2007 Andruw Jones and early-2000's Jose Cruz, but the positive to take out of those cases is that some of them were weighed down some by a low BABIP and (well, besides Jones), were all within 4% of being league average.
Going back to the ceiling seasons, while it would be nice to see Duda post a season with a 140 wRC+, it's best to realize those are just 3 seasons of many. Even some 130 (or greater) seasons would be a perfect world outcome.
Even so, we see 14 seasons that come up with a wRC+ of 120 or greater and then 25 seasons that show a wRC+ of 110 or greater. The average and median give a lot of hope that Duda should be at least 10% better than league average as a hitter. This matches up fairly well with a lot of the projection systems, which seem to think he'll be somewhere between 10 and 20% better than league in 2012:
Steamer wRAA: 16.5
Bill James wRAA: 14.4
Fangraph Fans wRAA: 21.5
RotoChamp wRAA: 21.2
ZiPS: 8.5 (booooo)
In all, I don't think this list should to be too surprising; I think we could all assume a good blend of contact, patience, and power generally spits out a pretty good hitter, and Duda has been very good to date. But this list should give some general perspective of what we might expect from Lucas' bat moving forward.