The Mets will have a couple of different options to experiment with at first base by giving some outfielders time in the infield.
While having an extra bat with the potential to produce like Bruce is nothing to sneeze at, it has put the role of Michael Conforto in flux.
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With the uncertainty of Lucas Duda at first base coming off a pretty serious injury last season, as well as Terry Collins’ plan to mirror the Cubs’ strategy of multiple players at multiple positions, there’s a possibility the Mets might try both Bruce and Conforto at first base.
In our Mets Season Review of Michael Conforto we looked at that possibility for 2017, and it still remains.
Personally, I think that prospect Dominic Smith — when ready — will take the position and run with it, so this is one of the most in-transition positions on the Mets this season.
However, if you toss in Wilmer Flores, his ability against lefties and his ability to play the position, there could be at-bats all around the squad at arguably the most important position on the infield (you can make plays up the middle and on the left side, but you need someone on the end at first who can finish the play).
If any of these players (Bruce, Conforto, or Flores) shows no potential to handle the position, the experiment should be abandoned immediately. If they all can handle it, keep the rotation going. If one takes it and runs with it, they should get the bulk of play there.
Another possibility that has hardly been brought up is the potential for a Duda trade as he enters his final year before free agency. His value is most likely at an all-time low, so if this were a possibility, he would need to build up value with the Mets combing the market for a partner during the year.
The Mets are still puzzled after all these years by Duda and they are hoping that prolific “farmboy” power can once more make his a feared spot in the lineup.
The most important piece in all of this, frankly, is Conforto, his continuing development, and his ability to bounce back from a humbling sophomore season.
If he shows he can adjust to how the league has done so to him, as well as play first base, the position should be his if Duda, coming off a tough lower back stress fracture, cannot regain his 2014-’15 form.
The Mets have a lot of question marks all around as they attempt to get back to the promised land and to the top of the mountain in 2017.
Combined with Terry’s desire to mirror the Cubs’ super-utility strategy as well as the crowded outfield, first base may be the most important part of the Mets’ upcoming season other than the health of the starting rotation.
Buckle up, Buckaroos.