New York Mets Prediction: Jay Bruce leads the team in 1B starts

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 05: Jay Bruce /

The New York Mets signed Jay Bruce to play right field every day for them in 2018. Fortunately for those who own stock in his first base mitt, he’ll see a lot more time on the infield. I’m predicting he leads the team in starts at first base this season.

When the New York Mets originally signed Jay Bruce it felt a little “been there, done that.” Why add another slow-moving slugger who can’t steal bases? They have plenty of that already.

Well, with the way things went this spring, it’s probably a really good thing they did add Bruce. Though somewhat limited on defense, he’s going to learn to get a little more flexible this year.

Bruce has spent most of his career in right field. Beginning in his early days with the Cincinnati Reds, it was clear Bruce was bound to eventually move to first base or become an American League DH. In 2018, he’s about to do the former.

This season, I predict Bruce does more than get his feet soaking wet at first base. I’m predicting he leads the Mets in starts at first base.

How Bruce becomes the Mets’ starting first baseman

A lot has to go wrong for Bruce to make the switch to first base on a nearly full-time basis. Adrian Gonzalez and Dominic Smith are the New York Mets’ preferred choices for the position. Sadly, neither will stay healthy enough in 2018 to muster enough playing time.

The Mets shouldn’t hesitate to move Bruce to first base as soon as they could. In fact, it shouldn’t wait more than a week into the year. The Mets should start Bruce at first sooner rather than later because they have a lot more depth in the outfield already. This fact inflates further with Michael Conforto returning sooner than expected.

The year began with Bruce in right field, Yoenis Cespedes in left field, and a platoon of Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares in center field. With Conforto back, there’s a good chance we see him take over in center field on a far more regular basis.

But what about the potential of a Nimmo/Lagares tandem?

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It’s time for Mickey Callaway to assess how his first baseman is doing and how far he can push him. Gonzalez isn’t getting paid nearly enough to justify playing during a slump. I can understand a $10 million per year player staying in the lineup until all hope is lost. At a league minimum salary, benching Gonzalez is justifiable. Thus far, he has hit well. In two weeks, the story could look far different.

For Bruce to not lead the way in starts at first base, far too much needs to go right. Gonzalez needs to stay on the field and/or Smith has to produce at the plate. I think there’s a greater chance that Nimmo or Lagares earns a starting gig than either of those two coming true. If either does prove worthy of a starting job in the limited action they see, Conforto can shift to right field and Bruce can move to the infield for first base duties.

Jay Bruce will still play more games in right field than first base. He won’t reach the 81-game mark at the position either, solidifying his victory as the team’s main first baseman this season. He’ll earn the team-high in starts through a carousel I expect to see at first base.

Next: Michael Conforto returns at opportune time

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The Mets could always find another player this summer via trade. However, the team may luck into pouring their resources into bettering themselves in other ways.