Lucas Duda was named the Mets' King of Spring Training last year, after he posted a .300/.386/.583 slash line with four home runs in the Grapefruit League. It turned out to be a nice anecdotal illustration of the insignificance of spring-training stats. Duda struggled during the 2012 regular season, in which he hit .239/.329/.389 and was sent down to Triple-A Buffalo in July. Those 2012 struggles, combined with his notably poor defense and offseason surgery to repair a broken wrist, make it hard to be overly bullish on the 27-year-old.
It's been a rough start for Duda in his bid to repeat as KoST. He struck out six times in two games this past weekend and took a couple games off to figure things out. He's back in the lineup today at 1:10 against the Cardinals. Again, spring training stats don't mean much, but it sounds like Duda's not where he needs to be recovering from the surgery. It's not encouraging news for a player expected to be a non-platooned, everyday outfielder.
Duda is part of an underwhelming crew of outfielders. It would be nice if the group could avoid setbacks, injury-driven or otherwise, or else it could get really ugly out there this season. This is not the place for wide-eyed optimism about the Mets' outfield, but if that's what you crave then look no further than Metsblog:
I still contend that this outfield will be more than fine, so long as Duda hits 20 home runs and the bullpen is at least average.
If the Mets' outfield sucks, blame Bobby Parnell.
Mets batting coach Dave Hudgens once had this to say about Duda:
"His potential with the bat is unlimited."
Hudgens said that after Duda's strong 2011 season, which indeed provided reason to be sanguine about Duda's future. If he could replicate his 2011 performance at the plate going forward, it would compensate for his atrocious defense and make him an almost-average contributor. However, it seems more likely that he won't hit well enough to make up for his glove, especially if he's not regularly sitting against left-handed pitchers.
I think Duda will improve upon his 2012 performance at the plate. His true talent level likely sits somewhere between his 2011 OPS of .852 and his 2012 OPS of .718, and I'm projecting the exact mid-point between them. It won't be good enough to make the front office remove him from trade talks though; he'll be traded to an American League team for something, anything. My projection below is therefore a full-season projection, including Duda's time with both the Mets and Yankees, or whichever team takes the big lug.
Post your Duda projection in the comments in the same format as below. I'll compare our projections to actual results at season's end.