After a loss to the Los Angeles Angels late Friday night, the New York Mets are coming up on a pair of important games to keep momentum and try to reach .500 for the first time this season. The team was swept by the Washington Nationals in the opening series, but proceeded to win two of three games against each of Cincinnati and Atlanta. The Mets have played better of late, and for the time being the roster and lineup is relatively stable, except for first base. The team must await one of Ike Davis or Lucas Duda to separate himself as the pair fights for the starting job.
About a week ago, Duda was proclaimed the starter by manager Terry Collins. Davis would receive spot starts, but the job was to be Duda’s to lose. So far, Duda is doing his best to give Davis yet another chance, hitting only 5/23 thus far. The small sample size caveat always applies at the beginning of the year, but for someone trying to win a permanent starting job the margin for error is decreased.
Something that makes the decision for Collins a bit more difficult is that both Duda and Davis are lefties with heavy splits. There is no simple platoon advantage to be employed, as they both struggle against left-handed pitching. Duda is a bit better, with a .638 career OPS against lefties compared to Davis’ .598. Having a lefty and righty to share the position would make the decisions much more straightforward.
Duda’s resume in recent years is rather up and down. Duda spent a few years mashing Triple A pitching, and has been on the major league roster for at least part of each season since 2010. His power has translated okay, with 46 career home runs in 1307 career at bats, and he has even gotten on base at a decent clip, with a .341 career on base percentage. However, his worst major league season coincided with the most plate appearances he has ever had in a season in 2012. He has hit well, but never well enough to truly demand a starting position.
Davis, on the other hand, looked like he would be the Mets’ first base solution for years when he posted a .817 OPS over his first two years in the majors. He then followed that up by batting .219 between 2012 and 2013, and was nearly let go altogether. Davis has tantalizing power, can play some defense at first, and has shown that if nothing else he can hit right handed pitching. He belongs on the roster, but has never been consistent enough to deem irreplaceable. Davis has gotten off to a good start in 2014, including a game winning home run, but his past two seasons should be reason enough to be weary.
One of the wild cards in the protracted first base tryout is Josh Satin, who got his first start of the season against the Angels Friday night. Satin made a nice impression, with a hit and a pair of runs batted in. At 29, Satin is hardly a prospect. In fact, he is older than either Davis or Duda. In the minors, Satin featured a very patient approach at the plate and good gap power. If Davis falters and Duda continue to struggle, Satin might find himself playing more and more. As a right handed bat, he would be a great compliment to one of the others at first, Davis in particular. If Satin shows he can hit left handed pitching, Duda might become expendable.
First base is supposed to be the simplest position to field, which is why traditionally it is full of good hitters. One does not need a wide skill set to play at first in the same way shortstop or catcher require. Lacking a viable hitter at a traditionally offensive position is just another problem with the Mets’ lineup, which has struggled to score. There is no help waiting in the wings, either, unless Wilmer Flores at 22 years old in Triple A takes a step forward. Barring the team going out and signing Kendrys Morales or making a trade, their options are limited to their current roster.
Commentary by Brian Moore
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering New York Baseball