New York Mets: 5 reasons Lucas Duda is becoming a top first baseman

Not much has gone right for the New York Mets this season. One thing that did was picking Lucas Duda over Ike Davis. Duda has shined in his first opportunity to be a full time first baseman. Granted he is in a bit of a slump at the moment but on the season as a whole, Duda has faired better than many expected (including myself). Here are some reasons that Duda should be considered one of the best in the business:

1. Power numbers from the clean-up spot

Though Terry Collins may not have envisioned Duda as his #4 hitter when this season began (that designation belonged to Curtis Granderson), he has stepped into the role and made a name for himself. Duda is tied for third in the National League with 26 home runs this season, behind only Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo. In fact, Duda has more home runs than 2-time defending AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, 2-time Home Run Derby champion Yoenis Cespedes and his cross town first base counterpart Mark Teixeira. This has been a much needed input of power for the Mets and is even more impressive when you consider that half of his games are played at Citi Field, considered to be a pitcher’s ballpark. Duda has a real chance to reach the 30 home run plateau this season and will likely be the only Met to come close.

2. He’s by far the team’s best clutch hitter

Duda leads the Mets in RBI’s and it’s not even close. Duda has 17 more runs batted in than the next closest Met, David Wright. This also comes in over 70 less at bats than Wright has this season. As of last week, Duda was on pace for around 95 RBI. Yes, that pace has slowed a bit but if Duda can capitalize on his chances, he could still break 90, the mark of a very solid season. As it stands currently, Duda’s 76 RBI’s put him in the top 10 in the National League in front of two previous NL MVPs in Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey. And he has less at bats than both guys.

3. He gets on base more than you think

He’s not going to win any batting titles, but Duda is hitting a very respectable .250. He has a very high hard hit percentage (one of those fun unofficial stats) and as he learns to use the whole field that average will increase. It may not seem like much but when compared to Ike Davis’s numbers over the last few seasons (.205 in 2013 and .227 in 2012), or even some key players from this season’s roster (Granderson is sitting at .212), it’s quite a pretty sight. Only Wright, Juan Lagares and Daniel Murphy have higher averages among every day players. On top of that, Duda has had improved patience. He is likely to set a career high in walks (he currently has 54 and needs one to tie his career high), which is good for second on the team, and is 8th in the NL in intentional passes (a category that Ruben Tejada somehow sits at #2).

4. He’s an efficient power hitter

Duda ranks third in the National League in at bats per home run with around 16.5 at bats per home run. He ranks higher than Justin Upton and Troy Tulowitzki in this respect. To put this into perspective, a hitter who plays 9 innings in a game will get somewhere between 3 and 5 at bats. So Duda, in essence, hits a home run every four games. Of course, this is only an average and in reality asking for a home run every 4 days when 81 games are played at city Field isn’t realistic. But that said, it’s tough to complain about that frequency of production and if he can retain that consistency in future years, he can be a perennial 30+ home run hitter. This is also a big reason I stressed the amount of at bats Duda has. He’s been more productive than some of the best players in baseball, with less chances to do it.

5. His defense is so much better

Offense isn’t the only part of Duda’s game. He’s developed into a solid defensive first baseman. He ranks fourth in the NL in double plays turned and in fielding percentage. He isn’t Juan Lagares and he won’t be winning any Gold Gloves in the near future but he’s made his fair share of nice plays. His instincts have improved, he’s better and more aggressive when starting double plays and his awareness helped the Mets to pull off a triple play against the Dodgers, the video for which can be found here.

There you have it. Everything that makes Lucas Duda tick as a baseball player, and a pretty good one at that, especially when you look at how he stacks up against some All Star caliber players. The Mets may have a few holes to fill but first base does not appear to be among them, because fortunately,