After a freak ankle injury put an end to his 2011 season after just 149 incredible plate appearances, Ike Davis’s chance to solidify his status as the Mets’ long-term first baseman came in 2012.
He came out of the gate struggling about as much as a player can possibly struggle in Major League Baseball. There was plenty of talk here at Amazin’ Avenue about demoting him to Triple-A Buffalo in an attempt to revive his bat. The Mets never demoted Davis, but he sure did revive his bat starting in June. He was an excellent hitter from then through the end of the season and finished with 32 home runs.
Most Likely Internal Candidate
Ike should be penciled in as the team’s starting first baseman when spring training begins, and he’d have to repeat his early-season woes in 2013 to lose that job. Lucas Duda is probably a better hitter than he was this season, but Davis has been more productive and has a longer track record with the Mets. He’s also a plus defender at first base, making him the obvious candidate to man the position next year and for the foreseeable future.
Minor Leagues: Help on the Way?
We once again turn to our own Rob Castellano for a review of the Mets' organizational depth:
"A review of the internal options at first base is unlike most others. First base is for first baseman, but it’s also a catch-all for everyone else that can’t cut it at another defensive position, especially in the National League.
"Most notably, top prospect Wilmer Flores has been discussed in that vein. The organization continues to try him all around the infield in an attempt to get his advanced bat to the majors more quickly, but if the slow feet that pushed him off shortstop also rule out second base and third base, Ike might soon have a new platoon partner, if not a replacement.
"Zach Lutz, another minor league third baseman by trade, began to see time at first in 2012, too. The oft-injured 26-year-old slugger can beat up Triple-A pitchers all he wants, but third base at Citi Field is decidedly ocupado. He doesn’t carry the clout of Flores so he won’t upend the incumbent, but could play the part of understudy should the need arise.
"It’s only fair that we should discuss an actual, you know, first baseman in our discussion of first baseman. And though he’s still a few years away, if there’s a "first baseman of the future" in this system, it’s Aderlin Rodriguez. The 6-3, 210-pound giganto possesses the requisite raw power to profile at the position, posting gaudy power numbers in A-ball in 2012. He currently mans the hot corner, but as he fills out his large frame, odds are good he won’t stay there, especially with the transition across the diamond already underway."
If there’s a position the Mets are decidedly not looking to fill with a player outside the organization, it’s first base. But in a hypothetical world in which both Davis and Duda are traded this winter, here’s the current group of free-agent first basemen who might be appealing: Lance Berkman, Adam LaRoche, James Loney, and Carlos Pena.
Berkman and LaRoche would be too expensive for the Mets’ budget, and neither Loney nor Pena is likely to be as good as either Davis or Duda. Throw in Flores, Lutz, and eventually Rodriguez, and the Mets probably won’t be looking for a first baseman elsewhere for several years.
Best Option for 2013
It’s Ike, and it’s not particularly close. While Duda looked incapable of playing the outfield this year, the Mets would be foolish to get rid of Davis solely to open up first base for Duda. If they’re blown away by a trade offer for Davis — perhaps for a good catcher or outfielder — it might make some sense to send him packing and give Duda the job to start the season. Failing that, however, the position should belong to Ike while Duda makes another attempt at a corner outfield spot or plays first in Las Vegas.
Other positions covered in the Mets 2013 Outlook series: