J.D. Davis and the search for a diamond in the rough

Among all the new faces in spring training, there are a few worth watching a little more closely. Beyond the stars and the roster battles, keep an eye on three potential diamonds in the rough – J.D. Davis, Keon Broxton, and Walker Lockett. All three are lottery tickets, with a slim chance of paying off in a big way.

It’s interesting to note what these three have in common and why the Mets front office may have targeted them in particular. Two were acquired in exchange for minor leaguers, and not of the top prospect variety, and the third was swapped for a backup catcher. Each was an odd man out on a team that is particular strong and deep at their position. Davis couldn’t find playing time on the Astros, but they might be the most talented team in baseball, particularly in the infield. Broxton found himself in a similar situation in Milwaukee, where the Brewers have an outfield led by two MVPs and an All-Star. Lockett is a starting pitcher who couldn’t get a shot with the Cleveland Indians, who, arguably, have had the best rotation in baseball the past few years. Sensing a pattern?

The right handed Davis is versatile, powerful and just 25. He has experience playing all four corner positions and has even pitched in relief a bit. He was a third round pick out of Cal State Fullerton in 2014 and made a steady climb through the farm, posting an OPS north of .800 at every level and reached .988 in his last season in AAA. He struggled after being called up last season and with the Astros right in the thick of the pennant chase, they couldn’t afford to let him iron out the kinks on the big league club. As the story goes, Mickey Mantle and many others struggled at first. Could be nerves or a needed adjustment. In Wednesday’s spring training game Davis got three hits, including a home run and four RBI. With Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie both nursing injuries and the Mets likely to keep Pete Alonso down in AAA for a few weeks to milk the service clock, Davis has a golden opportunity in front of him. The Mets obtained Alonso, along with a lesser prospect, for three of their own minor leaguers, so it’s a bit of a gamble, but not a huge one.

The right-handed Broxton is a quality defender in center field who has flashed speed and power. The 28-year-old was also a third round pick, back in 2009 by the Diamondbacks. After a trade to the Brewers, Broxton had something of a breakout year in 2017, hitting 20 home runs and stealing 21 bases, while providing strong defense in center. However, he struggled to find at bats last season and was deemed expendable after the Brewers stacked their outfield with the additions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yellich. Those two all-stars joined former MVP Ryan Braun to form one of the best outfields in baseball leaving little room for Broxton to find playing time. The Mets surrendered three minor leaguers for Broxton, including reliever Bobby Wahl. He figures to make the opening day roster as the fifth outfielder, but given the injury histories of all the players ahead of him on the depth chart, he’s likely to get a chance to shine at Citi Field.

The Mets acquired Lockett, together with another minor leaguer, in exchange for catcher Kevin Plawecki. Lockett was a 4th round draft pick out of high school in 2012. He came up through the Padres system and showed flashes of potential with solid control and a mid 90s fastball. The 6’5″ right hander struggled in three starts with the big league club and then got sent to the Indians in a trade package. The Tribe is stacked with pitchers and was in need of catching help, so they called the Mets. Lockett is a rotation depth piece and he probably falls in line behind not only sixth man Seth Lugo, but probably several others including any of Robert Gsellman, Hector Santiago, Corey Oswalt and even Kyle Dowdy. The 24-year-old starter will get a look in spring training before likely joining the AAA rotation in Syracuse. Maybe he has a future with the Mets and maybe he doesn’t. You never know. He could be a career minor leaguer, future trade chip, or the next Nelson Figueroa. Or maybe, just maybe, he’s a winning lottery ticket.

 

20 comments for “J.D. Davis and the search for a diamond in the rough

  1. John Fox
    March 1, 2019 at 10:10 am

    The article notes that 25 year old J. D. Davis struggled last year, and compares him to Mickey Mantle, saying that he struggled originally. Not really a fair comparison, Mantle broke in at age 19 and batted .267 in 96 games, and most 19 year olds struggle against MLB pitching.. By the following year when he was 20, Mantle finished third in MVP voting and never looked back.

    • MattyMets
      March 1, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      John Fox – Mantle is an all-time great. I don’t mean to equate the two. I mentioned Mantle because it’s been well-documented that he struggled so badly at first that he was demoted to AAA where continued struggling and wanted to quit baseball and had to be talked out of it by his father. That sparked him and he started hitting again in AAA and continued doing so upon promotion and the rest is history.

      The point is, not every good hitter hits the ground running like Acuna and Soto did last year. Brooks Robinson, Rickey Henderson and many others had less than stellar debuts but went on to great careers. Here’s an article I dug up on this topic.

      https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/history-proves-even-top-hitting-prospects-can-struggle-as-rookies/amp/

      • Rob
        March 1, 2019 at 1:45 pm

        I read awhile back Mays was awful. then you have late bloomers Jose Batista Dave Stewart Al leither etc

    • Bugsy
      March 4, 2019 at 12:41 pm

      Yes. Its a funny comparison.
      For every mickey mantle who “struggled at first” there are thousands who struggled at first and went on to suck forever.

  2. March 1, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    Well the Mets get more swaggy and this is a tell that the Mets don’t think Frazier and Lowrie will be ready to play to start the season so McNeil will start at third base to start the season. Gomez is probably done but he’ll get a chance to be the fifth OFer to start the season. https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2019/03/mets-agree-to-terms-with-carlos-gomez.html Oh and to be on topic of the thread I like Davis and agree with Baseball prospectus in their prediction of him putting up an over 800 ops.

    • José
      March 1, 2019 at 3:17 pm

      Wasn’t Cargo the name of the 1983 album released by Men At Work? And who has heard from them lately?

      • March 2, 2019 at 9:40 am

        Indeed it was!

        First album was a big success and second album (Cargo) was rushed out to cash in on it. Still had some interesting moments. Third album is critical. You can have a band that followed this same path and then puts out a great album – think Dire Straits, whose third album was Making Movies – or you can have a band like Men at Work whose third album was lacking what made the first two records interesting. And then you never hear from them again.

        But we should really save these off-topic posts for the Open Threads, which are published Mondays and Thursdays.

        • José
          March 2, 2019 at 11:48 am

          Sorry Brian, it was a stupid joke; I should have expected an in-depth response from you and the others.

          I posted this before I realized there were two CarGos: Gonzalez and Gomez. Which one do we have?

          On a different note, assuming this isn’t off-topic, I was looking at some of the other blogs, and many posters agreed with my thought of picking up Keuchel, a crafty lefty who’d be a nice mix with the big 3 power righties. Having Matz as #5 sounds tasty, and having Vargas for mop-up duty sounds even better.

          No, really, get him a bucket and a mop!

          Interesting: BP says his name is pronounced KY-kull

          • Metsense
            March 2, 2019 at 2:04 pm

            In reference to “Cargo” :

            “It’s not the future that I can see
            It’s just (his) fantasy
            Yeah
            Oh, who can (he) be now?
            Who can it be now”

            or was it in reference to “Business as Usual” for the Mets or for Men at Work

  3. Mike Walczak
    March 1, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    I think that the Mets AAA team will be fun to watch, because they will have a lot of recognizable names.

    I dont mind the strategy of signing a lot of these types of players and stashing them in Syracuse to see if one of them shines.

    • March 1, 2019 at 4:59 pm

      The Mets have completely reversed course. Last year, we had an abundance of AAA players at the major league level. This year, we’ll have an abundance of major leaguers at the AAA level.

      • MattyMets
        March 2, 2019 at 9:18 am

        JimO, that’s a clever way of looking at it. And to Mike’s point, it might be worth a road trip to Syracuse to catch a game. I saw a few games there years ago when it was a BlueJays affiliate.

  4. José
    March 1, 2019 at 3:06 pm

    Harper to Phillies for .33 Billion over 13 years? Meh

    Save all your acorns for impending Mike Trout FA, and give him everything, including renaming Citi Field.

    The city of Troutdale, OR (of which I was a recent resident) endorses this post!

    • March 2, 2019 at 10:35 am

      Mets won’t even make Trout an offer

      • José
        March 4, 2019 at 1:06 am

        “Mets won’t even make Trout an offer”

        Whatever you say, Buzz Killington. Have you mocked and teased any adorable puppies and kittens lately?

        Is it alright if I confess a slight man-crush on Mike Trout? He’s from NJ, right? Well, Paul Simon and I were both born in Newark.

        There, he was born in Vineland, and went to HS in Millville, and these are in… Southern NJ? You mean Phil, Balt, & Wash are closer than NYC? Crap!

        When I go to the grocery store, I see Mike Trout on the freezer shelf.

        No, really – you’ll often find his face on a box of frozen soft pretzels. He’s such a great guy, given that he endorses healthy pretzels to the youngsters.

        And they’re good pretzels too, and not over priced, like the crap most MLBers try to grift the youngsters with

  5. Metsense
    March 1, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    Of the three players, JD Davis has the most upside because he will be 26 in April, can play all four corner positions,had a career minor league OPS 884 over five seasons and had a respectable 763 OPS in 2017 with the Astros.He has some power in the minors having hit 26 homers on two occasions.He could be a solid contributor off the bench.
    Broxton is redundant to Lagares but the Mets can control him for the next four years.Therefor, stash him in Syracuse (if he has an option) and he will be a future 5th outfielder with speed, some pop and a plus glove when Lagares leaves.
    Lockett had only had one good year,2016, in the minors and there are more qualified pitchers in the organization. He not is a lottery ticket, more like a scratch off instead.

  6. NYM6986
    March 1, 2019 at 6:06 pm

    Looks like a stockpile of potential and they have time to let them develop. Got to be happy about building up the depth. As long as we don’t need to call up AA-AAA kids to fill in we are already a stronger team – even without Ces’ enormous bat which had not been replaced.

  7. BK
    March 2, 2019 at 7:31 pm

    If nothing else these are very good depth players. And if Lowrie and Frazier miss a lot of time with injuries, McNeil can go back to 3B and Davis or Broxton can get some time in the outfield.

  8. Chris B
    March 3, 2019 at 8:20 am

    Nice article and perspective Matty. I usually also buy my lotto tickets in different varieties and hope for a “hit.” If one of these guys end up producing above a 2.0 WAR is that considered a winning ticket? I’ll take it if just one of those of the three produce well and would consider that a success. However that level of production certainly means that another player was injured, underperformed or traded. Based on your reasonings and Metsense’s comment, I’m now more bullish on Davis. LGM

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