MLB

Assessing the candidates to play first base for the Mets

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Davis could be on his way out if he is not ready by Opening Day (©GettyImages)
Davis could be on his way out if he is not ready by Opening Day (©GettyImages).

Going into Spring Training, the New York Mets planned on a showdown between incumbents Ike Davis and Lucas Duda to win the starting first baseman’s job.

That has not happened due to Davis’s strained right calf muscle that has kept him in a walking boot the past few days and Duda’s tight left hamstring that has mostly kept him out of action for close to two weeks. Both injuries leave the question of who will start at first on Opening Day. While the Mets clearly would like either Davis or Duda at first, it is unclear if either will be available.

According to manager Terry Collins there is a possibility of moving starting second baseman Daniel Murphy over to first base and putting potential starting outfielder Eric Young Jr. at second. Murphy, a natural corner infielder, has had extended playing time over at first base. In fact he put up his best offensive numbers in 2011, posting a .320 batting average (Murphy was third in batting title race before tearing his MCL in early August), .360 on base percentage, and a .448 slugging percentage while playing first for the injured Davis.

Another option the Mets should consider is using top hitting prospect Wilmer Flores to fill the void. Though he did not play particularly well when he made his major league debut last season subbing at third for injured star player David Wright for 27 games, Flores is also a natural corner infielder with some power. Despite his less than spectacular debut, the Mets are optimistic. Flores hit .290 with a .331 on base percentage and a .431 slugging percentage with 64 home runs and 404 RBI’s in his minor league career.

Josh Satin is another player the Mets have thought of using to fill the temporary gap. Satin is considered an option to platoon with either Davis or Duda against left-handed pitchers. Last year, in his first season with extended playing time, Satin destroyed lefties, hitting .317 with a .404 on base percentage and a .476 slugging percentage in just 94 plate appearances versus LHP.

If Davis or Duda do not make Opening Day and one of these other options clicks, the Mets may trade one and keep the other as back-up first baseman. When Davis made his debut in 2010 he looked like a potential star in the making, hitting 19 home runs, 71 runs batted in, a .264 batting average and .351 on base percentage and a .440 slugging percentage in his first season.

In his second year with the team, Davis got off to a tremendous start. He hit. 302 with seven HR and 25 RBI before injuring his ankle mid-May on a collision with David Wright. Davis was originally supposed to miss only a few days, but wound up missing the rest of the season. And ever since his diagnosis of Valley Fever in spring of 2012, Davis has struggled mightily.

In the first half of the 2012 season Davis was simply horrific but managed a comeback during the second half, hitting .255, with a .346 on base percentage, and a .542 slugging percentage, with 21 home runs and 51 RBI’s. In 2013 Davis again got off to a terrible start, and was demoted to the Mets AAA Las Vegas affiliate in mid-June before returning in early July. From his recall on July 5th until he was injured again on August 31st with a strained oblique muscle Davis started in 38 games, hit four home runs and 17 RBI’s, a .267 batting average, a .429 on base percentage and a .443 slugging percentage.

Duda made his debut in September of 2010 as an outfielder. A natural first baseman, Duda did not get a chance to play first full-time until Davis was sent down to the minor leagues in 2013. Collins believed Duda could be a slugger because of his size – he is 6’4” and 255 lbs. - but has not consistently shown power. Duda is a career .246 hitter but he walks a lot. Duda has hit 15 home runs each of the last two seasons and Collins believes he can hit more.

First base will likely be a big hole in the lineup if this is not addressed now. If neither Duda nor Davis is ready for Opening Day then Murphy or Flores should be the top candidates to make the switch.

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Topics:
MLB
New York Mets
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