By Ethan Marshall
With Mets first baseman Lucas Duda dealing with back and hip issues, now is the time for the Mets to test out some of their other players at first base. While there is no reason to think right now that Duda won’t be healthy by opening day, the Mets will need to have a backup plan at first in case Duda gets hurt, remains hurt, or struggles. It is worth noting that Duda missed most of last season due to a stress fracture in his back.
The leading candidates to take over first base for Duda are Neil Walker and Jay Bruce. Both players have been taking reps at the position this spring. While Walker moving to first base provides flexibility around the infield, allowing for Reyes and Wright to be in the lineup at the same time, it makes way more sense for the Mets to move Bruce to first base. With Bruce playing first base, Michael Conforto would be able to fit in at right field, solving the logjam the Mets face in their outfield. Additionally, Wilmer Flores would still see plenty of playing time at first base against lefties if the Mets were to go with Bruce at first base.
Duda’s injury couldn’t have come at a better time. Since it’s still very early in spring training, Bruce and Walker have plenty of time to get acclimated to the first base position. Even if Duda is healthy again before the end of spring training, the Mets would have should something happen to Duda.
Another first base option could be David Wright. Wright is still trying to get his arm strength back. Moving Wright to first base would allow for Reyes to play third while also sparing Wright from having to throw across the diamond. While this seems practical, it isn’t really necessary for the Mets to have another right-handed hitting first baseman. The Mets want Flores in the lineup against lefties. Last season against lefties, Flores hit .340, with a .319 on-base-percentage, .710 slugging percentage, and 11 homers.