The Rays bolstered an already productive lineup with the addition of Lucas Duda.
Duda, a California native, was taken in the seventh round of the 2007 draft out of the University of Southern California. His calling card was always power and patience from the left side, and he broke out as a minor leaguer in 2010, slashing .304/.398/.569 between Double-A and Triple-A.
His first taste of the majors didn’t go particularly well (hitting .202/.261/.417 in 92 plate appearances), but it didn’t take too long for Duda to get acclimated to major league pitching.
With some more minor league seasoning, Duda came back and hit .292/.370/.482 with a wRC+ of 136 over 301 plate appearances in 2011. Even after the breakout campaign, Duda struggled to continue at that pace. With fellow left-handed hitter Ike Davis taking the majority of the at-bats at first base, Duda was forced out into regular duty in left field.
Between 2012 and 2013, Duda only slashed .232/.339/.401 with an 11 wRC+ and recorded a fWAR of -0.9 over 843 plate appearances. He also struck out at an alarming 26.3% of the time in that stretch.
Whether that contributed to the decline in his offensive performance can’t be proven, but the correlation between his improved hitting after he moved to being a full-time first baseman suggests so. After he was moved to first base full-time in 2013, his bat picked up again, as he hit .242/.350/.456 with a 129 wRC+ and 3.6 fWAR between 2014 and 2015.
It was a different story in 2016 for the big left-handed slugger. He struggled early on to get his feet under him, putting up a 97 wRC+ in April, and it didn’t improve into May, slashing just .192/.300/.404. He went on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his back, which explains the decreased production. He essentially missed the rest of the season, only playing eight games for the remainder of 2016.
For his career, Duda owns a slash line of .246/.343/.457 with a 122 wRC+ and 6.9 fWAR over 2895 plate appearances. Here’s a comparison of Duda and other first basemen around MLB:
So far in 2017, a healthy Lucas Duda has been mashing. Coming into play Friday, Duda was slashing .246/.347/.532 with 17 home runs. In terms of his fit with the Rays, he’s likely to lineup exclusively as a designated hitter. He’ll be taking at-bats away from 2B/DH Brad Miller and possibly 2B/SS Tim Beckham if the Rays deploy a true platoon at second base.
With Duda, a potential lineup could look like this, when Kevin Kiermaier returns:
TB lineup could look like this soon: CF Kiermaier, LF Dickerson, 3B Longoria, 1B LoMo, RF Souza, Jr., DH Duda, C Ramos, 2B Beckham, SS Hechy— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 27, 2017
With some tweaks, it projects to be a very productive lineup. Adding Duda gives the Rays power and patience while extending their lineup. The conundrum against left-handed pitchers still isn’t solved, as Duda only has a career 87 wRC+ against same-sided pitchers. But there will be time in August to find right-handed production to replace Trevor Plouffe, who has hit .170/.235/.255 since becoming a member of the Rays.
Welcome to the lineup, Duda!