The injury of Lucas Duda created a black hole for at first base for the majority of the 2016 season that the Mets tried to plug with James Loney. The Mets sent cash to the San Diego Padres for Loney, who was playing Triple-A, in hopes of filling Duda’s shoes.
Loney started and finished strong for the Mets, but in between he was brutally bad. He went a 20 start stretch without an extra base hit and 18 start streak without walking. Overall, he hit an underwhelming .265/.307/.397 while showing poor range, the inability to stretch and had the 3rd worst fielding percentage (.989) among first baseman that played at least 600 innings.
There are concerns for Duda though, coming off a season in which he played only 47 games because of a stress fracture in his back. In those 47 games he hit only .229/.302/.412 with seven doubles, seven home runs and 23 RBI.
Insert Dominic Smith. Not only is he the Mets top first base prospect but he’s also one of the best in all of baseball at the position. This season he set career highs with 14 home runs, two triples, 64 runs scored, 94 RBI and 146 hits. He slashed .302/.367/.457 for the Binghamton Mets while being the second youngest player in the Double-A Eastern League.
Some questioned if we would ever see home run power from Smith and he starting showing it in 2016. Coming into the season he had only 10 career home runs but did lead the Florida State League with 33 doubles in 2015.
Smith started pulling the ball with authority more and getting more loft in his swing this year. On the other side of the ball, defense has never been an issue for Smith who has great hands and works well around the bag at first. He is starting to put the whole package together which has many Mets fans excited.
The 21-year old Smith should start the 2017 season with the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s and undoubtedly put up strong numbers in a hitters haven.
Loney is a free agent and there’s little reason to see him coming back to the Mets. Leaving Duda as the only first baseman on the Mets 40-man roster. Duda is arbitration eligible and the Mets tendering him a contract that is estimated at $6.7 million seems like a no-brainer given his 2014-2015 production.
So what happens if Duda gets hurt again in 2017? Would the Mets turn to Smith or sign another James Loney type? Most see Dominic Smith as the Mets first baseman of the future, but could that time come at some point in 2017?