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Washington Nationals: Elijah Dukes Ready For 2010?

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Elijah Dukes played just 108 games in 2009, collecting 20 doubles, 4 triples, 8 HR's and 58 RBI's in 364 at bats over which the 25-year-old right fielder, who'll turn 26 in late June, hit for a .250 AVG with a .337 OBP, .393 SLG, 12 assists, 8 errors and one double play turned. In a month at Triple-A Syracuse, Dukes played 20 games, hitting for a .279 AVG and posting a .388 OBP and a .529 SLG with 8 doubles, 3 HR's, 10 RBI's and 5 steals, earning a call back up to the majors where he played right field alongside Nyjer Morgan in center and Josh Wilingham in right, in what DC Skipper Jim Riggleman told Washington Post writer Chico Harlan in an article entitled, "Fresh Starts and New Roles", was, "...an 'above average' outfield." 

Just before Dukes was called back from Syracuse, DC GM Mike Rizzo made an appearance on Sirius/XM's "Inside Pitch" with Jeff Joyce and Joel Sherman where he told the hosts that the Nationals would use the rest of the season, once Dukes returned to the majors to, "...see what type of player we have there on an everyday basis. It's an evaluation process, so we can go into the offseason and the winter and make good prudent baseball decisions." In 50 games in August and September/October, Dukes improved from a first-half line of .244/.308/.415 to .257/.366/.368 with 7 doubles, 3 triples, 2 HR's and 28 RBI's, plus 10 more walks and 20 less K's in 50 games to end the season than he'd had in 57 games before being sent down... 

As far as Jim Riggleman sees it, Dukes is, "...getting to be a finished product at his position." MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr spoke to the Nationals' Manager for an article entitled, "Could Dukes have a breakout season for Nats?", in which Mr. Kerr asked Mr. Riggleman to predict what sort of season Dukes would have at the plate:

"Offensively, we are just scratching the surface with Elijah. He can definitely hit more home runs than he hit last season. That will bring his RBI total up, whether he is knocking them in or crossing the plate himself. Despite not being up with the club the entire season, he did have 58 RBI in 364 at bats, which was pretty productive."

Dukes himself told MLB.com's Bill Ladson in a December interview entitled, "Dukes' expectations raised for 2010", that he knew how important it was for him to finally put it all together this season and become the player he'd been expected to be since the Tampa Bay Devil Rays made the Homestead, Florida native the team's 3rd Round pick, taking the then-18-year-old outfielder with the 74th overall selection in 2002. According to Dukes, as quoted by Mr. Ladson, he knows there are big expectations for him to "break through" this season, and he says, "I expect big things out of myself."

If Dukes comes through this season, (as MLB.com's Bill Ladson reiterated today in reporting in an article entitled, "Nationals, Dukes agree to terms", that the Nationals and their right fielder had agreed on a 1-year deal worth $440,000), it will go a long way in helping Washington decide whether or not he's going to be the DC RF for the next couple of years since Dukes is eligible for arbitration after the 2010 season and could stand to get a significantly more substantial raise than the $28,500 dollar increase he received this season. 

• Elijah Dukes: 2010 Projections - 

Bill James: 107 G, 346 AB's, 91 H, (.263 AVG), 19 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR's, 55 RBI's, .359 OBP, .439 SLG, .798 OPS.

LINKS: 

• Washington Nationals: Baseball Prospectus' Will Carroll's Team Health Reports.Ed Chigliak

• Washington Nationals: Elijah Dukes' Long Winter. Ed Chigliak

• Washington Nationals: Is Elijah Dukes Right In Right?Ed Chigliak

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