Going into the 2020 season, the Mets have good depth in starting pitching, the bullpen, corner outfield, and especially first base. The current level of depth at 1B is undoubtedly the most the Mets have ever had, and it’s led by emerging super star Pete Alonso.
After his 53 homer and 120 RBI season, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year Alonso sits on top of the 1b depth chart, to absolutely no one’s surprise. He can hit the ball as hard as anyone in the game, as evidenced by the shot he hit against Atlanta last April. That homer traveled 454 feet and was measured at a velocity of 118.3 MPH by Amazon Web Services.
Backing up Alonso is Dom Smith, the smooth fielding left-handed first baseman who complements the right-handed Alonso. Smith assembled a very impressive slash line last year at .282/.355/.525. In fact it was probably the second best season ever for a home-grown Mets first sacker, behind only Alonso’s big year. Smith could undoubtedly start for a fair amount of MLB teams.
Next on the depth chart would be J.D. Davis. Although Davis did not play an inning at 1b for the Mets in 2019, he has played some at first in the Houston farm organizations as well as 13 games for the Astros in 2018. Playing left field and third base for the Mets last year, Davis had a fine year at the plate slashing .307/.369/.527. However his defense did him no favors, with below average range in the outfield and third, as well as a slow release on his throws. First base just might be his best position in the field.
That’s pretty good depth so far, but wait, there is more to come. Number four on the depth chart would be Robinson Cano, who has played an overwhelming percentage of his MLB games at second base, including last year with the Mets. But he has played 1b in MLB ball, including 14 games at first base for Seattle in 2018, as the Mariners appeared to be perhaps gradually transitioning Cano to first base. That has been a pathway for many second basemen, who, as they lose range at second, get shifted to the less demanding 1b position. A couple of ex-Mets have taken that route in recent years including Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores. 2020 will be the age 37 season for Cano, who’s offensive production dropped off considerably last year.
Matt Adams was recently signed by the Mets to a minor league contract. Adams is really only suited to be a 1b, dh or pinch-hitter at the major league level. Last year he slashed .226/.276/.465 with 20 homers, so he does bring some power to the table, but not much else. His defense is subpar, he’s a slow runner, and he’s much more likely to strike out than to walk. He drew 20 walks for the Nats in 2019, as opposed to his 115 K’s in 333 PA, and he will be going into his age 31 season this year. He’ll be stashed in Syracuse until or if he is needed with the big club.
And then there is Jed Lowrie, heading into his age 36 season. He barely played last year for the Mets, due to a variety of injuries. He did have eight PA in 2019, all as a pinch-hitter, and squeezed a walk for his sole contribution. Lowrie has mostly played at second, short and third base in his career, but he did play seven games at 1b for Boston in 2010 and again in 2011.
Finally we can at least mention Yoenis Cespedes. We won’t put him on the depth chart since he has never played first at the MLB level. However, there has been some talk of him trying some 1b during ST this year. Cespedes, of course, was hors de combat most of the last two seasons with various injuries including heel and ankle woes.
This depth at first base begs the question, should the Mets deal away one or more of the above players to try to fill a position of need? The Mets were linked to several possible trades involving either Smith or Davis or both, but the return offered by other teams apparently was insufficient.
Of course, the Mets would never trade Alonso, and I am definitely not advocating that they should. He’s a home-grown star with extraordinary power. He’s a team leader, he’s durable with years of team control remaining, he hustles and he puts fans in seats. But just imagine what a haul he could bring, perhaps an established young center fielder and an up and coming catcher. That would leave Smith and Davis platooning at first with Davis getting some left field starts as well.
At any rate, the Mets are well fortified at 1b, and should be for years to come, and to quote Martha Stewart, “that’s a good thing.”