As Spring Training is now in full swing competition is heating up in Mets camp, mostly for spots in the starting rotation and in the bullpen but almost nowhere else. My question for the Mets is, why is there not a competition at first base?
I understand that Dom Smith has disappointed since Spring Training kicked off, he was late to the first game and he is now trying to get back into action since straining his quad running the bases. However, there is no reason why Wilmer Flores shouldn’t be able to compete with the veteran Adrian Gonzalez who has seemingly been handed the job.
Flores is already expected to platoon with Gonzalez, starting against lefties with A-Gon starting against righties. That platoon makes sense because Flores is one of the best players in the game when it comes to hitting against left-handed pitchers and the 35-year-old, left-handed hitting, Gonzalez simply won’t be able to play every day.
I believe there is an argument to make that Wilmer Flores should get the majority of playing time at First if he can outplay Gonzalez in Spring Training. At some point semi-early in the season, Dom Smith is going to come up and take over at first base unless Flores and/or Gonzalez absolutely dominates.
So, I believe whoever plays better in Spring Training should get an opportunity to get the majority of the starts at first base. Flores has consistently improved each year in the league at the plate while having to learn a new position to play each year. This year he will have an opportunity to know where the majority of his playing time will be and he can focus more on his offensive game.
Adrian Gonzalez can easily put this theory of mine to rest if he can simply have a solid Spring Training but at this point, he has not hit well at all. To this point, he has gone 3-18 at the plate which is not an encouraging sign from an aging player who is coming off the worst year of his career that was plagued by injuries.
At this point Wilmer Flores has not been much better himself, he has gone 5-23 at the plate at this point which is why this discussion has not been widespread and this might be the first time you are reading about it.
If this play persists from both players, Gonzalez will end up being the first baseman until the Mets brass feel that Dom Smith is ready to take the reigns. I feel like Flores is poised to heat up sometime soon but I don’t know if A-Gon is destined to have the same success.
Throughout A-Gon’s career, he has been one of the best hitters in the league but he has also never had to deal with nagging injuries. He now has a bad back which derailed his 2017 season and may be the downfall of his career.
Like I said before if both Flores and Gonzalez continue to struggle Gonzalez will likely end up the starting first baseman. The only thing that would prevent this from happening is if Dom Smith comes back from injury and dominates.
In my mind, it makes more sense to cut ties with Gonzalez and allow Flores to start at first if Smith doesn’t dominate. The whole reason the Mets signed Adrian Gonzalez was because there was no risk; if he performs well while they pay him the league minimum and that’s great and if they need to cut him to make room for Smith because he is performing in the minors they don’t lose anything.
They can use that same logic to make room on the Opening Day roster for a younger guy like Philip Evans or Gavin Cecchini if he continues to struggle. Neither Evans or Cecchini have any experience at first base so allowing them to make the roster over the veteran, gold glove winner, Adrian Gonzalez might not make too much sense.
My reasoning is that both guys can get some reps at first to be ready from time to time until they eventually go back down to the minors to make room for Smith, who should start the season in AAA if he struggles upon his return.
Both Evans and Cecchini have hit well early in Spring and have proven to have versatility on the field which is a premium ability in the big leagues today. Neither guy would see the field on a regular basis but could give Flores a rest from time to time as well as anyone else on the infield if needed.
To me, it makes more sense to get rid of Gonzalez and allow the younger Wilmer Flores to have a shot at regular playing time, a situation he hasn’t been in since 2015. Flores dominates lefties and is a solid hitter against righties if he can play consistently and he has pure power.
At times Flores has gone on stretches where he is one of the most dangerous hitters in the game and I think the Mets are better off betting that he will go on one of those stretches early in the season instead of hoping Gonzalez gets back his 2015 form.
There are still 22 days left in Spring Training for the Mets to make a decision and I am not asking them to hand the job to Flores I am asking them to not hand the job to A-Gon. Give Flores and even Dom Smith when he gets back on the field a fair shot at winning the job to start the season. If Adrian plays well then, by all means, he should start but he should HAVE TO play well, he can’t be handed the job.