Lucas Duda is an impressive figure when you first glance at him.
At 6' 4" and 254 pounds, the left-handed slugger makes quite an imposing sight in the batter's box. He might not have the intimidating presence of a Willie McCovey or Frank Howard, but he is certainly no slouch.
After an impressive rookie campaign in 2011, the former USC product is currently leading the surprising New York Mets in home runs (11) and RBI (42) this season. His average has slipped from .292 last year to .268 this season, but the Mets will accept that if he provides the power and RBI production he has shown to date.
So how much upside does Duda actually have? Can he hit the magical 30-homer, 100-RBI plateau this season and possibly lead the Amazins to a shocking wild-card berth in the National League?
No. As Mets fans know, Duda is far too streaky to rely on to produce All-Star numbers like that.
Manager Terry Collins rested his right fielder on Wednesday due to a tight hamstring, but Duda is expected to be in the lineup tomorrow when Subway Series Part II commences at Citi Field against the Yankees.
True, he's on a hot streak right now—with six homers and 19 RBI in his last 19 contests. He's also hitting .323 during that stretch.
However, before belting a solo HR against the Padres on May 25, Duda went 22 games without a round-tripper and also knocked in just nine runs during that span.
Wildly inconsistent. Hot and cold.
Like most sluggers.
Hot weather has enveloped the New York City area, and baseball fans know that when the temperature climbs so do the amount of home runs. It would not be surprising to see Duda continue his torrid streak.
At least for a little while.
However, Duda is only in his third season in the big leagues and simply does not have the track record of consistency to merit consideration for a 30-100 campaign. The potential is certainly there, but he is still learning opposing pitchers' tendencies and making adjustments as he develops into a seasoned professional.
His positive attributes certainly outweigh some of his flaws.
He still owns a respectable OBP of .356, after a .370 mark last year. He's hitting .260 against southpaws. His home and away splits are pretty similar, which shows improved consistency.
Duda's most outstanding statistic this season is his superb .400 batting average with two outs and runners in scoring position (in 40 AB). He's clouted three homers and driven in 21 runs in those scenarios. Outstanding.
On the negative side, Duda needs to cut down on his strikeouts and put the ball in play more often. He's whiffed 67 times in 228 at-bats in 2012, after striking out 57 times in 301 AB last year.
All in all though, the 26-year-old is making progress and even seems to be adequate in the field defensively. He has not reached his ceiling yet and should continue to provide excellent power in the Mets lineup for years to come.
30 HR and 100 RBI?
Someday. Perhaps even next season.
What about 2012 then, you ask? This season's stat line feels more like 27-88-.275 to me. But I'd be willing to bet that Collins would sign up for that in a New York minute if he could.
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