Results tagged ‘ binghamton ’

Non-Hype Prospect – Lucas Duda

Lucas Duda – Where did he come from?

One of the most fascinating things in baseball prospecting, at least for me, isn’t the top prospect who becomes the great player (though that is pretty cool).  For me, one of the most fascinating things is when the non-prospect, the non-top-pick makes a splash in the major leagues.  One of the sudden splashes over the past few years is Mets OF/1B, Lucas Duda.

After attending Arlington High School in Riverside, California, Duda was not selected in the Rule IV draft and went to the University of Southern California, where he, well, played for three years.  The vast majority of people who play professional baseball, even ones who never make the major leagues, dominated in college, putting up numbers more associated with video games than reality.  Duda was not one of them, as he put up a 208/322/299 slash line as a freshman in 2005, a 298/391/398 as a sophomore in 2006, and a 280/378/468 line as a junior in 2007.  While his numbers look good as a sophomore and a junior, the USC Trojans team hit a composite 313/398/423 slash line in 2006 and 286/369/399 in 2007.

Nevertheless, Omar Minaya and his staff saw something and drafted Duda with the 29th pick of the 7th round (243rd overall) of the 2007 draft, signed him for $85,000, and assigned him to the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets’ short-season A affiliate in the New York Penn League.  Duda put up a tremendous 299/398/462 slash line in 67 games, resulting in Baseball America ranking Duda the #29 prospect in the Mets system.  In 2008, the Mets assigned Duda to the St. Lucie Mets, their affiliate in the High A Florida State League, a league that is traditionally difficult on hitters.  Duda had a solid year in St. Lucie, putting up a 263/358/398 line with 11 home runs.  For context, only three hitters hit more than 15 home runs, Ryan Strieby, Brian Dopirak, and Juan Francisco; Brennan Boesch hit 7 in 461 PA, J.P. Arencibia and Logan Morrison hit 13 each.  After the season Baseball America rated Duda the #20 prospect in their system.

In 2009, Duda was assigned to the Binghamton Mets in the AA Eastern League, where he put up a 281/380/428 line across 110 games.  In mid August, Duda strained his knee, keeping him out for the next two weeks.  Though Duda’s line showed impressive patience, it lacked power, something a slow-footed 1B/OF must show in order to get promoted.  Duda failed to make Baseball America’s list of top 30 Mets prospects and returned to Binghamton to start 2010.  Primarily playing left field with Nick Evans, Josh Satin, and Marshall Hubbard manning the first sack, Duda crushed AA pitching, putting up a 286/411/503 line across 45 games before being promoted to the International League’s Buffalo Bisons, the Mets’ AAA affiliate in mid-June.  Duda hit even more in AAA, putting up a 314/389/610 line in 70 games in Buffalo, while primarily playing left field, with Mike Jacobs and Nick Evans (he was promoted in early July) primarily playing first base.  The Mets brought Duda up when rosters expanded in September, showing patience, power, and a massive hole in his swing while putting up a 202/261/417 line across 29 games, all in left field.  Suddenly, baseball writers took notice, with Baseball America ranking Duda the Mets’ #7 prospect and’s Jonathan Mayo naming Lucas Duda the Organizational Player of the Year for putting up a 304/398/569 line across AA and AAA with 23 homers and 87 RBI.

2011 started with Duda playing for the Mets as Jason Bay missed the first part of the season.  After being sent back to Buffalo on April 10, Duda returned to the Mets for two days in early May, but for the most part remained in Buffalo for two months with Jason Bay in left field and Ike Davis at first base for the Mets.  Duda put up an impressive 302/414/597 line with ten home runs in 38 games while playing 16 games in right field, 18 games in left field, and 8 games at first base.  Called up by the Mets on June 9, Duda proved that he belonged in the big leagues.  Splitting time between first base (43 games, 37 starts) and right field (42 games, 38 starts), with a little bit of left field mixed in (4 games, all starts), Duda put up an impressive 292/370/482 line before being shut down for the season in late September after crashing into a wall.

In 2012, Duda has been the Mets primary right fielder, putting up a 256/337/436 line while playing some of the worst outfield defense in the league with a -7.2 UZR and a -50.4 UZR/150 (according to Fangraphs), which would absolutely destroy Manny Ramirez’s -28.3 UZR/150, which is the worst defender since 2002, as calculated by Fangraphs.  I don’t mean to pick on Duda, but having seen outfields of Endy Chavez, Carlos Beltran, and Cliff Floyd or Shawn Green, or Beltran, Floyd, and Mike Cameron, it is stark how little ground Duda covers and how poor his routes to batted balls often happen to be.   That being said, Duda is being paid large sums of money to hit, and that he has done at a rate higher than the average major leaguer.

So what should we expect from Duda going forward?  I think Duda will be a solid #5 or #6 hitter going forward, but I don’t think he will ever become an elite #3 or #4 hitter, and if a team is forced to rely upon his bat too much, they could be in for a lot of trouble.   As big as Duda is, and as long as his swing appears to be, Duda does not strike out that much, only striking out 57 times in 347 PA in 2011.  Of course, in Duda’s slower start in 2012, he has struck out 21 times in 22 games, meaning that his low strike out rate in 2011 may have been a mirage due to pitchers not being familiar with Duda.

That being said, any contribution from Duda is impressive – he is one of three 7th round picks from the 2007 draft to make the majors, with Orioles outfielder Matt Angle (#219 overall) appearing in 31 games in 2011, and Diamondbacks pick Bryan Augenstein (#223) appearing in 7 games with the Diamondbacks in 2009 and 5 games with the Cardinals in 2011.  It’s also important to note that Duda is one of the two Mets picks in the first 20 rounds (23 overall) of the 2007 draft that made the major leagues.  The other is Mets’ supplemental first round pick (#42 overall) Eddie Kunz, who has, to put it mildly, not pitched up to his draft status.  Of course, before saying that Duda was the best pick in the 2007 draft for the Mets, it’s necessary to note that Duda has produced 0.8 WAR (according to Baseball Reference), but 21st round pick Dillon Gee has produced 2.3 WAR.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.


Post Hype Prospect – Phil Humber

On Saturday, Phil Humber threw the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history, throwing only 96 pitches to retire all 27 Seattle Mariners.  Despite once being a top prospect, Humber’s path to the perfect game was filled with injuries, demotions, a blockbuster trade, demotions, being released, and finding success for the Chicago White Sox.

Humber grew up in Nacogdoches, Texas and attended Carthage High School in Carthage, Texas.  In the Texas University Interscholastic League Class 4A semifinals, Humber struck out six, walked one, and allowed three hits.  Humber was drafted in the 29th round of the 2001 Rule IV Draft by the New York Yankees, a pick Humber considered more of a “draft-and-follow,” than anything else said Humber.  Humber continues, “I wasn’t mature enough to go into pro ball then. They made a pretty decent offer to try to sign me away from Rice, but I’m glad I chose [Rice].”

As Humber said, he went to Rice University, where he was part of one of the greatest pitching staffs in college baseball history, teaming with Jeff Niemann, Wade Townsend, and David Aardsma to come in 5th in the 2002 College World Series, win the 2003 College World Series, and come in 11th in the 2004 College World Series.  To say Humber was dominant in college is an understatement.  Humber put up a 2.78 ERA across 110 innings with 130 strike outs in 2002, a 3.30 ERA across 128 innings with 138 strike outs in 2003, and a 2.27 ERA across 115 innings with 154 strike outs in 2004.

Going into the 2004 draft, Humber was considered a top prospect and rumors swirled regarding which team would pick Humber.  Matt Bush was picked #1 overall by the Padres and twice flamed out spectacularly.  Justin Verlander was picked #2 overall by the Detroit Tigers, and has done very well, including two no hitters, Rookie of the Year (2006), Cy Young (2011), and MVP (2011), and four All Star Game appearances.  The Mets were focusing on three college pitchers, Jered Weaver, Humber, and Verlander.  Then-Mets General Manager, Jim Duquette, said that “[e]verybody who went in to see [Humber], including myself, thought he was going to be a 200-inning, year-after-year type of pitcher.  [Humber] had a good frame and a lot of the elements you’d look for in a top-of-the-rotation starter.”  The Mets passed on Weaver and took Humber with the #3 overall pick, with Weaver falling to the Angels at #12 due to bonus demands.

Humber was not the only Rice Owl to be picked in the first round of the 2004 draft, as teammates Jeff Niemann (#4 overall to the Devil Rays) and Wade Townsend (#8 overall to the Orioles, though he didn’t sign) were also selected, the first time three teammates were selected with the first eight picks of the draft.

Humber signed a 5-year major league contract with the Mets in January 2005 worth $4.2 million, including a $3 million signing bonus.  Ranked the #50 prospect by Baseball America before the 2005 season, Humber immediately clashed with Mets’ pitching coach Rick Peterson, who wanted Humber to change his mechanics and stand taller on the mound.  Humber was assigned to the high-A St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League, where he put up a 4.99 ERA across 70.1 innings with 65 strike outs.  Promoted to the AA Binghamton Mets of the Eastern League, Humber made one start on July 11, allowing three runs and four hits over four innings while striking out two.  Humber left the game early due to pain in his elbow and was quickly diagnosed with bone spurs and a torn ulnar collateral ligament.  Humber underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the rest of the season.  Humber returned to action in under 12 months, being assigned to the Rookie level GCL Mets on June 22 for one start, then being sent back to the St. Lucie Mets, where he made seven starts over 38 innings, striking out 36 and putting up a sparkling 2.37 ERA.  Promoted to AA Binghamton on August 4, Humber kept the good times rolling, putting up a 2.88 ERA across 34.1 innings while striking out 36.  As a reward for his season, Humber was called up to New York, where appeared in two games and did not allow a run.

Humber reappeared on Baseball America’s top 100 list, ranking #73 with the comment: “Blew out his elbow 15 starts into his pro career in 2005, but bounced all the way back last year.”  Humber began 2007 pitching for the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Mets’ AAA affiliate in the Pacific Coast League and performed reasonably well, putting up a 4.27 ERA across 139 innings, striking out 120.  While these numbers do not seem particularly good, the PCL is notoriously hitter-friendly.  Promoted to the Mets in September, Humber appeared in three games, including one start, and put up a (small sample size alert!) 7.71 ERA across seven innings.

In February 2007, Humber was dealt by the Mets, along with Kevin Mulvey, Carlos Gomez, and Deolis Guerra, to the Minnesota Twins for Johan Santana.  The Twins assigned Humber to the Rochester Red Wings, the Twins’ AAA affiliate in the International League. In 2007, Humber put up a 4.56 ERA across 136.1 innings, striking out 106.  Humber received his annual September call-up and appearing in five games as a reliever, putting up a 4.63 ERA across 11.2 innings.  In 2008, Humber broke camp with the Twins as a reliever.  After putting up a 12.46 ERA across 4.1 innings, Humber was sent down to Rochester.   After putting up a 5.34 ERA across 119.2 innings as a starter, Humber was recalled by the Twins, where he put up a 3.86 ERA across four relief appearances over 4.2 innings.

After the 2009 season, Humber’s career took a number of unexpected turns.  In October, Humber was granted free agency, as the Twins did not offer Humber a contract.  Humber was signed as a free agent by the Kansas City Royals in December.  Assigned to the Omaha Royals of the PCL, Humber appeared in 21 games (21 starts), putting up a respectable 4.47 ERA across 118.2 innings.  Humber appeared in 8 games for the Kansas City Royals, primarily as a long reliever, though he did start one game, logging 21.2 innings to go with his 4.15 ERA.  In December 2010, Humber was selected off waivers by the Oakland Athletics, then in January 2011, the Chicago White Sox selected Humber off waivers from the Athletics.

Humber opened the season with two relief appearances (and a 9.00 ERA after two innings), but the White Sox, led by Manager Ozzie Guillen, showed patience, giving Humber time to find his way.   Humber responded with a great showing, holding a 2.69 ERA after his seven inning start against the cross town rival Cubs on July 2.  Humber seemed to struggle after that start, putting up a 7.52 ERA over his next five starts.  On August 18, Humber was struck in the face by a line drive and immediately taken out of the game.  Humber was, largely, unscathed by the ball, as he only had a face bruise.  Humber made one rehabilitation start for the Charlotte Knights, the White Sox’s AAA affiliate, and returned to the White Sox for the duration of the season.  Humber returned with seven shutout innings against the Twins in his first start after being taken off the Disabled List, then made four more starts for the White Sox.  The 2011 season was a major success for Humber, as he put up a 3.75 ERA (112 ERA+) across 163 innings.

Humber opened 2012 as the #5 starter for the White Sox and has dominated.  After going 5.1 innings and allowing only one run in his first start against Baltimore, Humber threw just 96 pitches (67 strikes) in his way to pitching a perfect game against the Mariners over the weekend (if this is news to you then how did you find this article?).

So what is ahead for Humber?  No one knows.  Congratulations have come from all over, including former teammate, Mike Pelfrey, apparently every person who knows his cell phone number, and former manager Ozzie Guillen, but not White Sox fan President Barack Obama.

At this point, the best way to describe what Humber went through would be something he said in June 2011, when asked to discuss his career after being traded by or released from four different organizations:

“I’ve been through everything you can go through in baseball so far.  I’ve had Tommy John surgery, been the hot prospect, been a bust, been given a lot of opportunities and been given up on. You get to the point where you say, you know what, baseball’s not my whole life and if I’m going to play it I’m going to play because I enjoy it. That’s where I am.’

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.


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