Posted by Reese Kaplan at 8:00 AM
When the Mets made the decision to dispatch Ike Davis and keep Lucas Duda, many were caught by surprise given what Davis had accomplished and what little Duda had done as mostly an outfielder in the early stages of his Mets career. However, that faith was quickly well rewarded as he turned in his finest season in 2014 with 30 HRs and 92 RBIs. He followed that with a 2015 campaign with 43 fewer ABs he still delivered 27 HRs and drove in 73. There were slight upticks in OBP and OPS, so everyone was confident he would be a major cog in the 2016 offense. The back problems that afflicted Duda brought a quick end to his season, and though there’s a slim chance he could return later this month, no one knows how he’ll hold up and manage the limitations his injury and recovery have caused. Look no further than David Wright to understand what back problems can do to a power hitter. Duda’s currently earning $6.725 million and is arbitration eligible in 2017 before becoming a free agent in 2018. There have been whispers that the Mets could consider non-tendering him in order to sign him at a lower price but he would be under no obligation to return to Queens.
The veteran first baseman started off with a bang but is ending on a whimper. Overall his .264 average is 20 points below his career mark. What’s concerning is his pitiful .308 OBP and .373 slugging percentage. He’s a pretty slick fielder without much power, but the fact he’s also left handed and offers no positional versatility and no baserunning speed, he’s far from ideal to be a player off the bench. My recommendation is to wish him well as he tries to sign on for more playing time elsewhere.
Despite the lackluster start to his Mets career, Jay Bruce is a proven major league power hitter who ironically was leading the league in Hrs before donning the orange and blue. With the logjam of outfielders on the Mets roster, there’s been some talk of moving Bruce to play 1B. Offensively he’s rather similar to Lucas Duda with a longer track record and higher average seasonal output. He’ll cost double what Duda would be he offers more of a guarantee of health which might outweigh the usual bargain hunting Mets priority. He’s only had 3 major league games at 1B so the prospect of this transition may not be realistic.
While the manager has positioned Wilmer Flores as primarily a devastating force against left handed pitching, he’s quietly putting together a second consecutive campaign with solid HR/RBI numbers. After providing .263/16/59 in 483 Abs in 2015, he’s already delivered 16 Hrs and 49 RBIs with a slightly higher .270 AVG in nearly 200 fewer ABs. That kind of productivity leads many to question how he would do if given the opportunity to put in a full 550-600 AB season. The idea of 25 HRs and 80 RBIs doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility. However, his struggles against right handed pitching mitigate some of that potential. In addition, he was slated to be the supersub this year in the mold of a younger Ben Zobrist who would get nearly full time production while playing all over the diamond. If committed to a single position then the Mets must address who would take on that role.
Many have voiced the opinion that the young outfielder step aside and establish himself as a 1st Baseman though he’s not ever played it as a professional. He’s cost controlled through 2019 and a shift to 1B would give him the opportunity to contribute nearly every day, something that's not likely to happen if he remains in the outfield.
Since you’re saddled with his contract for one more year, you could instead of making Conforto learn a new position ask the rag-armed Curtis Granderson to do so. The better move might be to try to trade him while his value is relatively high with a strong finish to his season in terms of home runs. However, given the penchant for veterans it’s unlikely they would look in that direction despite the crowded outfield.
While he may or may not opt to remain a Met, the fact is that his legs might respond better to a 1st Base assignment than to the demands of running in the outfield. It would be a crime, however, to lose his cannon of an arm to a position that has virtually no throwing needed.
2016 has been a disastrous step backwards for the designated injury victim. Would a switch to 1st Base as many other offensive-oriented catchers have done help him hone his game while staying on the field? His defense and throwing are nothing to write home about, but the question is whether or not he'd ever generate enough offense to justify the move.
Is it real or is it Memorex? In this case, is the .312 average for real or is merely the PCL effect that inflates numbers in Las Vegas. Unlike others on this list, Plawecki actually does have experience as a 1st baseman, but is not likely going to generate more power than James Loney.
I don’t think Eric Campbell, Kelly Johnson, Ty Kelly or TJ Rivera would be given serious consideration for a full time gig.
I endorse a Conforto/Flores platoon as a low cost slugging solution. Take the $7 million or so that it would cost to retain a perhaps limited Lucas Duda and use it to pay the pitchers or address other problems. What do you think?