Manager Mickey Callaway has had his share of problems to deal with during his tenure with the Mets, but one of these problems is one that most managers would not mind having. Specifically he has to find playing time for two very good first sackers on the roster, right-handed slugger Pete Alonso and left-handed batter Dominic Smith.
Alonso has electrified fans with his high-exit velocity shots at the plate, and he has been really productive in most of the batting aspects of the game. Through the Sunday action he has assembled a slash line of .325/.416/.727 with 8 homers and 7 doubles. So he’s hitting for power, hitting for average and is getting on base. He is making a strong early candidacy for the Rookie of the Year award, and he’s playing better defense than was expected. Barring injury or a prolonged slump, he is in no danger of losing his starting slot.
Smith has been playing quite well, in more limited action he’s cranked out a .409/.519/.500 line, with 2 doubles. He also is smoother at fielding his position than Alonso is. Smith had been an under-achiever with potential prior to this season, but apparently using medical equipment to control sleep apnea has given him new life.
So far Callaway has managed this embarrassment of riches quite well. He has gotten both players into all 21 games played (again through the Sunday action.) Smith has gotten a spot start, but mostly has been used as a pinch hitter and or late game defensive replacement, with Alonso getting the bulk of the work at first base.
Part of the challenge for Callaway is that the two players are both only suited for the first base slot, or DH in the few road inter-league games. Smith throws left-handed, so he can’t play any of the other infield positions. He has played just a bit of outfield, especially in the minors last year, but all that proved is that he is a first baseman. Alonso is right-handed thrower but it is hard to envision him anywhere else in the field besides first, especially since he is doing so well there.
It’s not too often that a team gets two young, exciting and productive players who are only suited for first base. We might have to go all the way back to the late 50s when the Giants had Orlando Cepeda win the Rookie of the year award in 1958, and then had Willie McCovey win it the following year. Both players went on to win MVP awards and both ended up in the Hall of Fame. Cepeda was athletic enough to play the outfield, but he didn’t like it, and McCovey was like a fish out of water trying to patrol the outfield pastures. The Giants finally traded Cepeda to the Cardinals for pitcher Ray Sadecki, a deal that turned out very well for St. Louis.
So far, so good for Callaway in handling this situation. There are worrisome spots in the Mets lineup, but first base is not one of them. There is not really a competition for the starting spot which Alonso has clearly won. Both players are contributing despite the fact there is only one spot in the field for both of them.