Maybe Duda Is The Odd Man Out
With the impending return of Yoenis Cespedes, the debate will begin to emerge over which Mets outfielder needs to go to the bench. Thankfully, that will not be Michael Conforto, not even against left-handed pitching. Instead, the discussion is between a pair of left-handed hitting right fielders who are in the last year of their contract.
If this decision was made in May, it would have been clear-cut. You play Jay Bruce. He was the best hitter on the team. However, he has stumbled in May. In the month of May, he has been eerily reminiscent of the player who struggles upon coming to the Mets hitting just .191/.282/.426 with four homers and 14 RBI. If Terry Collins is paying attention to this slump, this may just open the door for Curtis Granderson to play over Bruce.
While Granderson is typically a slow starter, he had a nightmare April leading many to question if he’s done at 36 years old. It’s May now, and Granderson is hitting much better. Now, when you hit .128/.174/.221 in April, that bar is absurdly low. And certainly, you can argue his hitting .232/.328/.518 with three homers and nine RBI does not merit a starting job. Still, there is an argument for Granderson over Bruce.
Even with his subpar May numbers, Granderson is having a better May. Whereas Bruce usually gets off to hot starts and cools off, Granderson starts out slow and improves as the season progress. Granderson is hot right now hitting .296/.387/.630 with two homers and four RBI over his last nine games. Between the two, Granderson is the much better right fielder. He also gives the Mets the option of playing him in center while Conforto plays in right.
No matter who Collins or the Mets front office decides to bench, it is going to be a tough decision that is going to lead to much double guessing. It may also be an issue with the team because these are two All Star right fielders who are playing for a contract. Sitting on the bench is going to damage their free agent value. There may be a work around benching either player.
It’s possible the Mets could bench Lucas Duda and play Bruce at first base. The justification for this is Duda has struggled since returning from the Disabled List. In his nine games back, Duda has hit just .154/.354/.231 with no homers or RBI. The OBP is where you want it to be, but Duda just looks lost when it comes to the rest of his game. This could be part of the normal peaks and valleys a player has during the season, or it could be part of the lingering effects of Duda’s elbow injury.
This creates its own problem as well. While there were some positive signs, Bruce looked raw at first base in the six games he played there. While there may not be a cause and effect, it should be noted Bruce’s season took a definitive turn when he played first base. Before playing first base, he was hitting .309/.387/.673 with six homers and 14 RBI in 14 games. In the 26 games since, he is hitting .216/.302/.431 with five homers and 16 RBI. There’s also the matter of Duda being an impending free agent himself. Certainly, he does not want to have any diminution of his free agent value by moving to the bench.
Right now, the Mets have a decision to make on which left-handed 30 home run impending free agent needs to go to the bench. There is no good answer to this conundrum. It’s a decision that is going to have far reaching implications on how the Mets ability to get back into the National League East race. There is still time for each player to distinguish themselves and take the decision out of the Mets’ hands similar to how Conforto has.
This is the type of question that makes or breaks seasons. Whenever the Mets have to make this decision, they need to make the right one.