Back in January new GM Brodie Van Wagenen made a flurry of roster changes in hope of creating a contender in New York for 2019. Amid the shuffle was the acquisition of J.D. Davis from the Astros for prospects. At the time it seemed like a risky move selling minor leaguers for a guy who had failed to hit above .200 in his brief MLB time, but the potential from his PCL batting title remained. Now two months into the season Davis, originally a reserve, has started in 31 of the Mets’ 55 games.
“Just Dingers” Davis has performed above expectations and has drawn comparisons to J.D. Martinez in name during the early going of this season. Despite being fifth on the team in OPS (among batters with 50 PA) he still finds himself entering games as a right-handed bench off the bench instead of a starter. While Dominic Smith has been even better at the plate with fewer opportunities, there isn’t an obvious reason for Davis to ever be watching from the bench.
The recent numbers aren’t as pretty, but the full body of work for Davis combined with his potential shown in AAA warrant a starting spot on a team with plenty of injuries and offensive holes. Davis has effectively replaced the expected value of the injured Jed Lowrie, and he has used his advanced approach in studying pitchers to come through in big spots late in games. This was especially apparent with his seventh inning 3-run blast against the Nationals last week.
Despite these successes he finds himself on a very short leash, and unworthy for a chance at the everyday third base spot.
Recent hot streak and weird pancake habits aside, Todd Frazier has been an incredibly subpar third baseman for the team. His Mets tenure shows a sub .700 OPS, a .218 AVG, and an amazing ability to always be behind fastballs. The only argument to continue to start Frazier at the hot corner is his defense, or if you want to prove to the owners that your client was worth every penny.
While Frazier’s defense is superior to Davis, a team that starts Dominic Smith in left field obviously does not prioritize fielding. Whether they should or not is an argument for another day.
This argument is simply that Davis should be starting above the likes of Frazier, Carlos Gomez, and Aaron Altherr in the corner outfield or third base positions. It is in the Mets’ best interest to play one of their best hitters as well as to develop a young right-handed bat who can play multiple positions. Perhaps long-term his is best utilized as a bench bat, but with the current cast of position players the Mets are fielding it would be worrisome to see him in that role right now.
Yesterday’s game may have just been a night off while he struggles, but if Frazier and others continue to take at-bats from Davis it will continue the notion that the Mets really aren’t interested in winning ball games, since they make lineup decisions to minimize regret instead of to maximize talent.