The New York Mets have had a problem at first base for several years now. Ike Davis, who was supposed to be the long term solution when he was drafted in 2008, was never able to put it together in New York and got traded away in April. Once Davis was gone, the Mets gave Lucas Duda the job. Many figured that Duda would underachieve and be replaced after the season. Duda, however, has seized the opportunity to play regularly and has produced the best power numbers of his career.
Duda is now hitting .259 with 18 home runs and 56 RBI's on the season. The 18 homers is already a career high, easily topping the 15 he achieved in both 2012 and 2013. Duda still has two full months to go in the season, so 25 home runs is in reach and he has an outside shot to reach the 30 home run mark. The 56 RBI's is also one away from his career high mark of 57 from back in 2012. Duda will eclipse that mark easily, and could end up with somewhere around 85 RBI's by the end of the season. Duda is currently the team leader in both home runs and RBI's, a feat no one would have guessed back in April.
While the power numbers are key for the Mets, Duda's batting average is finally back at a respectable place. Duda hit .292 in 100 games in 2012, giving the Mets hope that he could be a good average guy as well as a guy with a high on base percentage. Duda's average dipped to .239 last year as he never really got going, and it looked like more of the same this year as Duda was hitting only .236 on Memorial Day.
At that point, the Mets changed hitting coaches and brought in Lamar Johnson. While the team as a whole has hit better since Johnson took over, the most noticeable change has been with Duda. Duda appeared to be very passive in the Dave Hudgens era, almost waiting for the perfect pitch to try and draw more walks. Duda has been noticeably more aggressive under Johnson's watch, and the results have been much more improved. Duda hit .282 in June and has hit .286 so far in July to raise his batting average to a respectable .259 on the season.
Duda's improvement has been so great that manager Terry Collins has indicated he wants to start giving Duda more at bats against left handed pitchers. Duda has pretty much been in a platoon with Eric Campbell (and Josh Satin earlier) for the whole season and sitting when a lofty starts. Duda is delivering results though, and his approach at the plate has been so strong that he has earned a chance to try and hit lefties. Duda's also stepped up as the Mets' cleanup hitter after Collins moved Curtis Granderson to the leadoff spot to try and generate more offense. The moves have paid off well, as the lineup flows better as a whole in this grouping.
If Duda can finish off his season strong, the Mets will not have to worry about trying to upgrade at first base in the offseason. Duda has shown that with regular playing time he can be a contributor to a strong offense, and the Mets already have a capable complementary player on hand in Campbell. With Duda blossoming the Mets can cross one area off their wish list going forward, a welcome development as the team appears to be inching closer to a breakthrough season in 2015.
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