When Lucas Duda was sent down to Triple-A by the Mets today, it was in order to clear a space for Matt Harvey, or so the procedural report read. In reality, this move as about defense, most likely, as we suggested earlier today.
But who is actually taking Lucas Duda's spot on the roster right now? Kirk Nieuwenhuis was the name that we suggested, but Captain Kirk of the Ks can play center field, while Lucas Duda most certainly can't. So that makes Kirk part of a platoon with Andres Torres in center field -- and that's a position that most teams have two capable options on the roster at all times. Scott Hairston plays the role of lefty-killer, right-handed corner outfielder bat. Jason Bay is still a starter, maybe, probably.
So there's only room for one more outfielder on the roster. Right now, that fifth outfielder is Jordany Valdespin.
Yeah, it's probably the (somewhat, maybe in name-only) Jordan-like (former) infielder that is currently sitting on Lucas Duda's spot. He won't be needed in the middle infield most games, as Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, Ronny Cedeno, and Justin Turner are all healthy right now. He's a lefty, too, just like Duda.
Of course, Valdespin -- he won't be The Spinster here -- can actually play center too. And that's why Simon was right to point to defense as the reason Duda was sent down. Defense is the one thing that Valdespin will own over his counterpart.
Patience? Valdespin hasn't sniffed a league-average walk rate since rookie ball. Duda has shown a double-digit walk rate in the major leagues. Power? Only once has Valdespin eclipsed the league average in isolated slugging. Even in a down year, Duda's power is at league average, and he had .295 ISOs in Triple-A. Contact? Valdespin does have a lower strikeout rate, but his contact rate is actually worse than Duda's. And contact rate comes on a per-pitch basis and stabilizes quickly. In general, Valdespin's strikeout rates have been worse than they should be for a man with his medium-sized level of power. Speed? Sure, Valdespin is faster. I might be faster than Duda. But Valdespin's stolen bases have never been efficient -- he gets caught often and gives back much of that value in the process.
By all accounts, Valdespin is the better defender. But just as clearly, Duda is the better offensive piece. If only the two could be smushed into one, athletic, powerful, patient, Jordan-like Dude. Then we'd have something pretty special.
They'll both have a place on the Mets while they are under team control. But since they're both flawed, it's tough to count them as foundational pieces for the future. In that case, it's about winning games now while also providing each with the right mix of challenge and confidence in order to grow for the future. Good luck to both young players as they try to iron out their flaws.