By Rich Coutinho
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For Lucas Duda, 2011 was a breakout year. So many other Mets prospects were always ranked higher than Duda, but all this guy did was hit the ball at every minor league level. Still, he was overlooked until the Mets finally turned to him in 2012, when the power-hitting lefty made the most of the opportunity. After Carlos Beltran was traded to the Giants, Duda was given the right-field job and played like he wanted to hold onto it forever.

This season the job is his, but he has not rested on his laurels and still thinks he can become better.

“This game is about adjusting”, said Duda,”and I take nothing for granted. I think I have to earn playing time every single day, and the great thing about Terry Collins is that he always rewards you with playing time if you are producing. That is all a player can ask.”

When Duda arrived in Spring Training, he worked very hard on preparing himself for the grind of a long season. And once fans arrived in Port St. Lucie, they were treated to a home run derby every time he stepped into the batter’s box for batting practice.

To me, two things stand out when I watch Duda, aside from his obvious power. He has lightning quick hands, which makes his swing compact but very powerful. Secondly, he rarely swings at pitches off the plate and has a great command of the strike zone. That was illustrated last year when he not only drew walks but drove pitchers to deep counts, which always gives the hitter the advantage. The change in the Citi Field dimensions will also help Duda, who has power to the opposite field.

So what do scouts think about Duda? One told me,”This guy has a chance to be very good. Despite what he lacks in speed and defense, his power jumps out at you. But more than that, he has wall-to-wall power and a better than average on-base percentage. He seems to be very hardworking and poised. From what I hear, the Mets got a bunch of calls about him in the offseason from other general managers. I can see why.”

So, the rest is up to Duda. 50 RBIs in half a season is impressive, but too small a sample size to rely on anything. Duda knows that and is up for the challenge. The Mets certainly hope he takes the next step this year. If he does, he may indeed become one of the most feared bats in the National League.

Will Lucas Duda become a consistent 30-homer guy in the big leagues? Sound off with your comments below…