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.