10 first-base options for Mets with Duda out

10 first-base options for Mets with Duda out

WASHINGTON -- Not long after the Mets received a lump of bad news Monday regarding Lucas Duda, who will miss weeks or even months with a stress fracture in his lower back, manager Terry Collins approached team captain David Wright. He floated the idea of potentially moving the lifelong third baseman to first. Wright's response: "Whatever the team needs, I'm willing to try it."

The Mets are not willing to go down that road just yet. Too many other options exist on their roster, ranging from neatly inside the box to well outside of it. For now, the Mets are likely to keep to the conservative path, although that could change in the future.

Mets lose Duda to lower-back stress fracture

"We're not in a position right now to just test guys," Collins said. "We're supposed to win. I know everybody thinks first base is a place you can throw anybody over, and that's not true."

Here are 10 candidates to play first base, listed in descending order of likelihood:

1. Eric Campbell: This week, at least, first base belongs to Campbell. Considering his .214 average and .591 OPS entering Monday, that's likely to last only as long as …

2. Wilmer Flores: … returns from the disabled list. Flores, who has been on the DL since May 12 with a mild left hamstring strain, is due to begin a Minor League rehab assignment Tuesday at Double-A Binghamton. He could return from the DL as soon as Friday, at which point he should play most days at first.

3. Ty Kelly: Though the Mets called up Kelly on Monday to replace Duda on the roster, he's more of a middle infielder. Still, Kelly has played his share of first base over the years, and could draw a start at the position sometime soon. If his Pacific Coast League-leading .391 average translates to the Majors even a little bit, Kelly's opportunities could grow.

4. Michael Conforto: The Mets have incentive to make this one work, because moving Conforto to first base would allow them to start Juan Lagares every day in center field, shifting Yoenis Cespedes to left. The only problem? Conforto has never played the position, not even in Little League. "If that's a spot that they need me to go out there and take ground balls, work on some things, I'm going to do that," Conforto said. "I'll do my best."

5. Jonathan Lucroy: Even if Duda were healthy, the Mets would have some interest in a trade for the Brewers' Lucroy, given Travis d'Arnaud's inability to stay healthy behind the plate. Now, Lucroy could fill two needs with his first-base experience. Other early trade options include Chris Carter, Mark Reynolds and Kelly Johnson.

6. Kevin Plawecki: The Mets' desire to try Plawecki at first this spring wound up being a tad overblown, perhaps to their current detriment. But Plawecki has yet to prove he can hit consistently at the big league level anyway, dampening any organizational desire to have him log at-bats at a premium offensive position.

7. Alejandro De Aza: Since Duda's back began barking early last week, De Aza has been taking balls at first base. But his only professional experience at the position came when he was 20 years old in the Class A South Atlantic League. The Mets are more likely to exhaust their other options first.

8. Neil Walker: Like moving Conforto, shifting Walker would free space for the Mets to give playing time to an exciting young player: Triple-A Las Vegas second baseman Dilson Herrera. But Walker's first-base experience is also scant, and limited to the Minor Leagues.

9. Wright: Ever the team player, Wright said he would be willing and able to try out first if needed. There's even a fair chance it winds up being his permanent position later in his 30s, a la Washington's Ryan Zimmerman. But the Mets would prefer to ease Wright into that position in Spring Training, rather than have him adjust on the fly.

10. Dominic Smith: Collins said explicitly on Monday that Smith, the club's top prospect, is not currently an option. The Mets did promote Conforto straight from Double-A to the Majors last season with great success, but Smith, 20, is two years younger than Conforto was at the time; rival scouts view him as not quite so polished. Smith may still be the first baseman of the long-term future, but it's unlikely to be sooner than that.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.