Around the Horn: Mets confident in corner vets

Wright, Duda set to return in 2017 after injury-plagued '16

Around the Horn: Mets confident in corner vets

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Port St. Lucie, Fla., by Feb. 12, it's time to dissect the Mets' 2017 roster. This is the second of a six-part Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at projected starters and backups heading into the season. Next up: corner infielders.

NEW YORK -- At one end of the diamond, the Mets are set to feature a seven-time All-Star. At the other, a 30-homer slugger. Combined, those two players will make roughly $30 million in 2017.

No part of the roster is more uncertain.

It's not that the Mets lack confidence in David Wright and Lucas Duda; to the contrary, the team seems to have more faith in them than the general public does. It's just that with both players coming off significant injury, limited greatly in 2016 and now settled into their 30s, it's difficult to predict how either one will perform.

"We won't know until we get down [to Florida] and he shows up and tells us where he's at," manager Terry Collins said of Wright. "David knows himself better than anybody, so if he feels he's ready to play games or, you know, when he's ready to get in the lineup, we're going to get him in there, because I think it's important this spring to get him extra at-bats."

Wright's situation is the more publicized of the two, considering his struggles to overcome spinal stenosis in 2015, then a herniated disc in his neck this past season. The latter issue required surgery, which Wright recovered from in time to begin taking batting practice earlier this month. But there is no telling how he will cope with continued rehab from that operation while simultaneously battling stenosis, which will affect him for the rest of his life.

Statcast: Wright's 424-ft HR

The last time Wright submitted something approaching a full, healthy season was in 2014, when he hit .269 with a .698 OPS and eight home runs in 134 games. Wright's last All-Star season came in '13, which was also the most recent time he hit over .300. He has not hit 20-plus home runs in a season since '12.

Still, the Mets remain optimistic about the 34-year-old Wright, hoping he can appear in roughly four out of every five games.

"I don't think you're going to see eight in a row or nine in a row," Collins said, "but I think David will be in that lineup a lot."

When Wright cannot play, Jose Reyes will step in at third, much as he did in 2016. It's a fine insurance policy for a Mets club that used Reyes as its everyday leadoff hitter in the second half of this past season.

Must C: Duda smacks two homers

The team is not covered quite so well at first base. There is little depth behind Duda, who appeared in only 47 games this past season due to a stress fracture in his lower back. Though Duda did not require surgery, it marked the second straight season he missed time due to injury. The Mets badly need him to turn back into the slugger who hit 57 homers with an .834 OPS from 2014-15.

Beyond Duda, Wilmer Flores is the Mets' primary backup, with a good chance to serve as his platoon partner. Though he, too, missed significant time due to injury last season, Flores developed into one of the game's most dangerous hitters against left-handed pitching, batting .340 with 11 home runs in 107 plate appearances. Capable of playing at any infield position, Flores is likely to receive most of his reps at first and second base.

As for the future, No. 2 prospect Dominic Smith is progressing through the Minors, batting .302 with 14 home runs this past year at Double-A Binghamton. But he isn't likely to debut until 2018, after Duda's contract expires.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for 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.