The Bench Boys (Part 2)

Lucas Duda

Lucas Duda: The Future or Future DH?

In my last post, I talked a little about the candidates for the final bench spot on my hypothetical Mets roster. With Brad Emaus as starting second baseman, and Mike Nickeas, Chin-lung Hu, Daniel Murphy, and Scott Hairston holding down the rest of the bench, there’s only one spot left. And there are three optimal players to fill the role of fifth outfielder and final bat off the bench:

  • Fernando Martinez
  • Lucas Duda
  • Nick Evans

As most Mets fans have heard by now, Fernando Martinez has already been assigned to the minor league camp. This is fine, because honestly, I don’t think Martinez is the right fit for the bench…at least to open the season. Why? Because Fernando needs consistent at-bats to develop. As everyone has heard, the former #1 prospect has had a tough time staying healthy over the last few years his entire career. Beyond that, the Mets have a dastardly history of rushing top prospects, and Martinez is no exception. With less than 600 plate appearances in AAA or the majors, Martinez deserves a chance to hit against the best possible competition on a regular basis. Seeing high-level pitching every day will show whether or not Martinez can handle the load of being a full-time offensive player.

So should it be Duda or Evans holding down the last spot on the roster? The two players actually had fairly similar numbers in AAA last year. While Lucas Duda bats left-handed, Nick Evans hits from the right side. While Duda hit for more power in 2010 (slugging .503 in AA and .610 in AAA), Nick Evans struck out less and nearly equaled Duda’s HR numbers.

The toughest part of the decision between Duda and Evans is that Nick Evans is out of options – and there’s little chance that Evans would clear waivers and be sent to the minors. Some team will snap him up, and they’ll have acquired themselves a player with some real potential. And that’s a real shame, because Evans could be a valuable piece for a few years yet – and I’d prefer those years be in a Mets uniform.

But then, looking long-term…the Mets are full of outfielders. And fair-hitting outfielders are a more fungible resource than, say, outfielders with potential for legit 30 homer power and patience. Sure, Evans can play a reasonable first base, but so can a lot of players. One of those players is Ike Davis. Another is Daniel Murphy. And these two guys are already on the 25-man roster (or, at least they almost assuredly will be).

As much as I hate to give away a usable asset, Lucas Duda deserves the spot on the 25-man roster due to his real power and ability to hit from the left side. With Carlos Beltran’s poor health, Duda should get two games a week, or more, in right field. Duda has proven to be a real asset at the plate, with great walk rates and legit power. All he has to do is prove his ability to man right field at an average defensive level, and Duda could be a middle-of-the-order asset for the Mets for years to come.

An ideal situation would be to trade Evans before the end of spring training, and make sure the Mets could get some sort of resource back for him (a low-end prospect, catching depth, something). But chances are, if the Mets decide Nick Evans isn’t worth a 25-man roster spot, it won’t kill organizational depth, and it won’t be giving up an asset that is irreplaceable.

With no future for the 2011 Mets, the Mets aren’t just best served with Duda holding down a spot on the bench…they should deal Carlos Beltran if he shows that he’s healthy and productive, and install Lucas Duda as the everyday right fielder. At the very least, he’ll scare the crud out of a couple of late-game relievers.

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Filed under Fernando Martinez, Lucas Duda, Nick Evans

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